IRRC No. 317

The new vulnerability of humanitarian workers: what is the proper response? An ICRC delegate's view

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“The security [of humanitarian personnel in the field] is a political rather than a technical issue. No rule or protective measure can replace the establishment of a network of contacts among all the parties to a conflict, to convince every one of them of the ICRC's neutrality, impartiality and independence. If those in charge of combatants perceive the ICRC as taking sides, then the organization becomes a potential target. Conversely, neutrality, and above all the combatants' perception of that neutrality, offer the warring parties their best assurance that the ICRC poses no threat to them. The neutral stance of its delegates convinces combatants that the ICRC's humanitarian action has no effect on military operations.” This is one of the basic premises of the guidelines on security that the ICRC drew up a few years ago for use in its action in the midst of armed conflict.

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