work today is characterized by a proliferation of players
and, let it be said, by a blurring of the differences between
the humanitarian, political and military roles.
Given the growing complexity of crises, the most striking
examples of which have been those in the region of the Great
Lakes and in the former Yugoslavia, it is essential that the
precise nature and limits of humanitarian aid be clearly defined.
Humanitarian aid is not a policy option like any other. Rather,
it is the reflection of society’s moral values as embodied
in rules of international law, in particular the Geneva Conventions,
of which the Red Cross is both the instigator and the custodian.
Its purpose is to safeguard the most basic of human rights
— the right to life — and to preserve human dignity
in times of crisis.
All those involved in implementing humanitarian aid must
be aware of their respective roles and keep them separate.
Any other course is fraught with danger. The European Community
Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the largest contributor of humanitarian
aid, fully recognizes this and is prepared to take on the
particular responsibilities it has towards its partners, and
especially towards its beneficiaries.
The principles set out in the Madrid Declaration, which calls
on the international community to ensure that:
– the independence and impartiality of humanitarian
aid are respected;
– civilians are no longer targeted;
– the right to seek and obtain asylum is maintained
for refugees fleeing persecution;
– we are given full access to all those in need;
– humanitarian personnel can carry out their work in
safety must find expression in the notion of partnership among
donors, humanitarian agencies and beneficiaries, which is
a necessary condition, although unfortunately not a sufficient
one, for implementing humanitarian aid in such a way that
it can save lives and uphold human dignity.
Over and above the letter of the law, the spirit reflected
in such a partnership must prevail at all times. Only thus
can we ensure the future, and the quality, of humanitarian