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Humanitarian and Military Action in Armed Conflict – Side by Side, not Hand in Hand

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Humanitarian action in armed conflict faces a challenge as the distinction between humanitarian, other civilian and military action becomes increasingly blurred. It may imply that the security of humanitarian professionals is put at risk or that humanitarian actors do not reach all those in need. From a Red Cross perspective, it is both necessary and possible to single out humanitarian action based on neutrality, impartiality and independence with a view to gaining and maintaining access to all those with a need and right to humanitarian assistance and protection during armed conflict. Access to populations in need is based on trust by parties to a conflict that this access is intended and used exclusively for humanitarian purposes. This imposes restrictions on humanitarianactors not to engage in non-humanitarian activities and non-humanitarian actors not to engage in humanitarian activities. Only where there is no civil alternative and needs are real and critical can assistance be provided by e.g., military actors, if this assistance is provided without discrimination on a needs first and only basis. isrequires that assistance is not used to achieve non-humanitarian purposes, i.e., to win consent, gather intelligence, and so on. Red Cross experience shows that the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection requires expertise, capacity and competence specific to humanitarian organisations. This cannot be assumed by other actors with a different mandate or purpose without compromising the basic principles of humanitarian action: neutrality, impartiality and independence.

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Red Cross Mobilisation and Response Unit


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