Humanitarian Principles Explained

The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence provide the foundation for humanitarian action. They are central to establishing and maintaining access and delivering humanitarian assistance to  people who need help, whether in a disaster or a complex emergency, such as armed conflict. 

Promoting and ensuring compliance with the principles are essential for effective humanitarian response. Protection of humanitarian space requires that societies understand and endorse the principles and that public opinion is prepared to defend them.

  • Humanity

    Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.

  • Neutrality

    Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

  • Impartiality

    Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinions.

  • Independence

    Humanitarian action must be autonomous from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented.