From left: Abbas Aroua, Director, The Cordoba Foundation of Geneva, Simon Eccleshall, Head of Disaster and Crisis Management Department, IFRC, Ingrid Macdonald, Director, NRC Geneva and Humanitarian Policy and Helen Durham, Director of International Law and Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Photo: Diogo Costa/IFRC.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct

Anike Doherty|Published 09. Dec 2014
On Friday 5th December, the Norwegian Refugee Council and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies hosted 80 government representatives and humanitarian organisations across the world in an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief, at the IFRC in Geneva.

The Code of Conduct in Disaster Relief was developed to reflect international norms and set ethical standards for organisations engaged in the humanitarian effort. Today, there are 546 signatories making it one of the most widely endorsed benchmarks for humanitarian work in the world.

Since it’s inception, the humanitarian landscape has significantly changed, marked by increased needs including record numbers of people displaced or affected by natural disasters and conflicts, the growing scope and diversity of humanitarian response and organisation and increased risks – both physical and financial – for those working in situations of crisis. At the same time, humanitarian organisations face increased pressure and scrutiny from states, communities, and the media, including the rapid expansion of social media.

The conference will engage participants in the central question: Just how useful is the Code of Conduct and humanitarian principles in enabling organisations to meet needs today? According to Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC, “Humanitarian organisations have become much more professional and better at responding during the last two decades, a period where the Code has served as an important guide. But we still have a long way to go to ensure we are reaching more people, in more places, and more effectively. The quality of our work and our proximity to those suffering can still be improved through more consistent application of humanitarian principles at all levels”.

Elhadj As Sy, recently appointed Secretary General of the IFRC says “This event provides an important opportunity to reflect on the challenges we face as humanitarian actors. The Code of Conduct emphasizes the importance of accountability not only to donors but also to beneficiaries. It built on local custom, culture and capacities. As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, I’d like to emphasize the importance of voluntary action and the role of volunteers in our collective commitment to principled humanitarian action.”

The 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct provides a unique opportunity to take stock of the changing humanitarian landscape, the relevance of the Code, and set an agenda for future actions required to strengthen operations that meet the needs of those affected by conflict and crisis. The event will focus discussing the core humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality and how they can be utilized better by organisations across their activities.  

Key Documents

Access the concept note for this event

Access the agenda for this event

Access the report of this conference