Principles in Disaster Management and DRR

10 General principles in DRR, 4 Humanitarian Principles by UN

States bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that their citizens' human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. If the states are unable or unwilling to fulfil this role during a humanitarian crisis, humanitarian organisations attempt to provide assistance and protection to populations in need.

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Humanitarian principles and standards of conduct for humanitarian workers have been developed over the last several years by various actors, primarily based on international humanitarian law and the work of the ICRC. A 10-point Code of Conduct has been adopted by the Red Cross Movement and many major humanitarian NGOs. Mary B. Anderson's "do no harm" principle, developed in the 1990s, has evolved into an approach, inspiring a series of training workshops for humanitarian workers. The Sphere Humanitarian Charter contains a set of principles that serve as an operational framework for the Steering Committee on Humanitarian Response, Interaction, VOICE, ICRC, and ICVA. Humanity, neutrality, and impartiality are the three core humanitarian principles enshrined in GA Resolution 46/182, which established the current system of UN coordination in humanitarian crises.

Globally, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the only body that brings together UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement, and humanitarian NGOs, is in charge of identifying and upholding common humanitarian principles. A group that reflects the composition of the IASC is frequently established as the primary forum for such discussions at the country level.

Recent events in the humanitarian community suggest that the humanitarian principles that guide UNICEF's work in humanitarian crises should be reviewed and updated. Among the most significant of these developments have been allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugee girls and women by peacekeepers and aid workers in West Africa and elsewhere, the proliferation of non-state actors increasingly involved in humanitarian assistance (armed groups, private sector, military), and the trend toward blurring the distinction between humanitarian and military actors.


The following list is a revision, not a total overhaul, of UNICEF's current set of humanitarian principles (developed in 1997-98). The proposed revision retains what is commonly regarded as the "core" humanitarian principles (humanitarian imperative, neutrality, impartiality). It clarifies the emerging ethical issue of using military-civilian defence assets for humanitarian purposes following the principle of neutrality. It also includes the principle of accountability, which has come to be recognised as an essential component of humanitarian action codes of conduct.

The revised set of humanitarian principles distinguishes more clearly between humanitarian principles, which are concerned with how to ensure the integrity and non-politicised nature of humanitarian work, and programming principles, such as activity coordination and gender equality, which are concerned with guaranteeing solid programming in emergencies (as in other contexts). As a result, coordination and gender equality have been removed from the list of humanitarian principles but have been incorporated into relevant areas listed below.

Seven Major Humanitarian Principles

The following seven principles are given by UNICEF in working with humanitarian activities like DM, DRR, and DRM.

The humanitarian imperative

Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable population, such as children, women, the displaced and the elderly. The dignity and rights of all those in need of humanitarian assistance must be respected and protected. The humanitarian imperative implies a right to receive humanitarian aid and offer it. At times, humanitarian access to civilian populations is denied by authorities for political or security reasons. Humanitarian agencies must maintain their ability to obtain and sustain access to all vulnerable people and negotiate such access with all parties to the conflict.


Humanitarian agencies must not take sides in the hostilities or controversies based on political, racial, religious or ideological identity (non-partisanship/independence). Transparency and openness are vital issues to keep neutrality. Neutrality for an organisation that has taken on a rights-based approach must not be an obstacle to tackling human rights violations. Neutrality is not a justification for condoning impunity or turning a blind eye to egregious human rights abuses. It does not negate the need for some form of action, whether through strategic advocacy, simple presence, political demarches, local negotiations, etc.

Neutrality also requires that humanitarian actors be clear about the specific and limited circumstances in which military assets can be used: only as a last resort (where there is no comparable civilian alternative); the operation as a whole must remain under the overall authority and control of the responsible humanitarian organisation, and any use of military assets should be clearly limited in time and scale. Belligerent forces' military and civil defence assets should never be 'used to support humanitarian activities.



Aid is delivered to all those suffering; the guidin' principle is only their need and the corresponding right. Human rights are the basis and the framework for assessing condition'. This principle includes' both the proportionality to need (where resources are not sufficient, priority is always given to those most affected) and the focus of non-discrimination (no one should be discriminated against based on their sex, age, etc., identity, etc.). It is crucial to emphasise state responsibility in ensuring that aid is delivered impartially.

Do no/less harm

Although aid can become part of the dynamics of the conflict and may even prolong it, humanitarian organisations must strive to "do no harm" or minimise the harm they may be inadvertently doing simply by being present and providing assistance. Humanitarian actors need to be aware of this and take steps to minimise the damage when, for example, aid is used as an instrument of war by denying access or attacking convoys; aid is an indirect part of the dynamics of the conflict because it creates jobs, gives incomes in the form of taxes, leaves no or little responsibility on the state for social welfare, etc.; or aid exacerbates the root causes of the conflict by securing rebel activities. To minimise possible longer-term harm, humanitarian organisations should provide assistance in ways that are supportive of recovery and long-term development.


there are four stakeholders in providing aid assistance: the beneficiary community, the national/local authority, the donor and the aid agency. Within this relationship, international aid agencies shall hold themselves accountable to the beneficiary communities (that their needs for assistance and protection are met with dignity) and the donors (that assistance is provided for the proposed purpose). Coordination among organisations is thus a vital part of this principle. National/local authorities, on their part, shall hold themselves accountable for the protection, safety and well-being of populations living in areas over which they claim to control.



Participation of affected populations, particularly women and children: Humanitarian action tends to look at short-term needs and forget the responsibilities of the aid community to give sustainable aid in a way that realises the right of affected populations to participate in decisions that affect their lives. It is, however, essential to build on capacities in the affected people and promote the participation of beneficiaries in all that we do. Participation raises questions, namely 'participation of who?' (men, women, girls, boys, traditional and modern institutions, etc.), 'participation for what?' (the objectives of participation, e.g. to facilitate targeting of programmes, to ensure buy-in of local populations, etc.), and 'how to do participation?' (e.g. how to address discrimination in participatory processes and ensure that people engaged and participating in the aid process will not themselves be targets of human rights violations and stigmatised as the result of their participation?).

Respect for culture and custom

Understanding local customs and traditions is essential in carrying out your work and understanding local values when connecting them to internationally recognised human rights. While local culture and customs vary, human rights are universal and applicable to all human beings, no matter the cultural setting, and must be paramount. Some interventions require particular sensitivity to local customs. For example, in dealing with survivors of rape, it is essential to be aware of how rape and survivors of rape are perceived in the local community to best respond to their needs.


Previous Humanitarian Principles

New Humanitarian Principles

Humanitarian Imperative

Humanitarian Imperative




Impartiality (non-discrimination)#

Do No Harm*

Do No Harm

Respect Culture and Custom*

Respect Culture and Custom

Enhance Capacity-building*

Participation of affected populations, in particular women and children#

Coordinate Efforts*


Take gender dimensions into account*


* Considered to be five additional points on which to base activities, not humanitarian principles per se

# Are also Human Rights principles


Four Fundamental Humanitarian Principles

According to The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed whenever 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.

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


Ethical Principles on Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management

Prieur, Michel (2012) mentioned the following ethical principles for creating DRR, and DIsatstemr Management in his article titled 'Ethical Principles on Disaster Risk Reduction and People’s Resilience.'

10 General principles in DRR

(i) Solidarity; (ii) Joint responsibility; (iii) Non-discrimination; (iv) Humanity; (v) Impartiality; (vi) Neutrality; (vii) Co-operation; (viii) Territorial sovereignty; (ix) Prevention; and (x) Role of the media.

13 Ethical principles applied prior to disasters

(i) Introduction of prevention measures; (ii) The importance of a good quality healthy environment; (iii) Education, training and awareness-raising about resilience to disasters; (iv) Prior information; (v) Participation; (vi) Freedom of expression; (vii) Access to justice; (viii) Disaster prevention at the workplace; (ix) Disaster prevention in recreation and tourist areas; (x) Disaster prevention in public places, particularly schools and hospitals; (xi) Special prevention measures for the most vulnerable groups; (xii) Organisation of and participation in emergency drills; (xiii) Preventive evacuation of populations.

9 Ethical principles applied during disasters

(i) Humanitarian assistance; (ii) Information and participation during disasters; (iii) Compulsory evacuation of populations; (iv) Respect for dignity; (v) Respect for persons; (vi) Emergency assistance for the most vulnerable persons; (vii) The importance of rescue workers; (viii) Measures to safeguard and rehabilitate the environment; and (ix) Necessary measures to safeguard and restore social ties.

4 Ethical principles are applied after disasters

(i) Strengthening resilience to the effects of disasters; (ii) Necessary measures; (iii) Protection of economic, social and cultural rights; and (iv) Protection of civil and political rights.


Code of Conduct for a Relief Worker

1. The humanitarian imperative comes first;

2. Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone;

3. Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint;

4. Aid workers/organizations shall endeavour not to be used as an instrument of foreign policy 

5. Aid workers/organizations shall respect culture and custom

6. We shall attempt to build disaster response on local capacities 

7. Ways shall be found to involve program beneficiaries in the management of relief aid 

8. Relief aid must strive to reduce vulnerabilities to future disasters as well as meet basic needs 

9. We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those from whom we accept resources

10. In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall recognize disaster victims as dignified human beings, not hopeless objects.

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