|Exploration 5E: Ethics of humanitarian action|
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What is the difference?
Students often become confused between the concepts of neutrality and impartiality. Since each is important in humanitarian efforts, students need to be clear on the distinct meaning of each.
Using terms like "not taking sides" and "giving equal treatment" can help younger students understand the difference.
Discuss the idea that people adopt principles to guide their work.
Tell students that all humanitarian organizations have codes of conduct. Explain that the broad goal of humanitarian action is to prevent and alleviate suffering and to protect life and dignity (humanity). To achieve this goal, humanitarian organizations give aid without discrimination of any kind (impartiality). In addition, the ICRC's code of conduct specifically requires it not to take sides (neutrality) and to remain detached from political and military interests (independence).
Impartiality (no discrimination, priority based on needs) The ICRC does not discriminate among people on the grounds of their nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, social class or political opinions. Its work is guided solely by the needs of individuals, with priority being given to the most urgent cases.
Neutrality (not taking sides) In order to secure the confidence of all parties, the ICRC refrains from taking sides armed conflict or other situations of violence or in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
Independence (resisting pressure) The ICRC resists any pressure from outsiders – whether they are donors, international bodies, governments or armed groups – that would affect its ability to respond effectively to humanitarian needs, in keeping with its principles.