9. Rules of conduct and safety

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9.1 Conduct

normas conducta seguridad

Staff providing assistance to disaster victims, whether from an NGO, government agency, or United Nations agency, should follow rules of conduct in relation to the services they provide and the population that they are serving. Examples of areas covered by these rules of conduct are: 

  • Humanitarian duty: The right to receive and provide humanitarian assistance is a fundamental humanitarian principle that applies to the citizens of all countries. Humanitarian assistance does not obey partisan or political interests.
  • Impartial assistance: The assistance provided is not contingent on race, creed, religion, political opinion, nationality, or any other distinction. Priority for assistance is based purely on the needs identified.
  • Respect for local culture and customs: Humanitarian assistance provided should take into account the cultural and social features of the community being supported to ensure that it will be useful and appropriate.
  • Promotion of local capacities: The livelihood and skills of the people affected by a disaster should be strengthened, and early recovery of the area should be promoted by using local personnel, purchasing local materials, dealing with domestic companies, creating partnerships with local organizations to plan and execute activities, and cooperating with local governmental entities.
  • Participation of beneficiaries in managing assistance: Relief will be more effective, and conditions more favorable for long-lasting rehabilitation if the recipients participate fully in preparing, managing, and executing the aid program.
  • Recognition of the dignity of, and respect for, aid recipients: The support provided should take account of the fact that although those affected may have lost family members as well as their possessions and assets, they should not be allowed to lose their dignity.
  • Eradication of sexual abuse: Personnel working in humanitarian areas are responsible for providing humanitarian assistance that is free from sexual exploitation and abuse, and this applies to relationships with colleagues as well as with beneficiaries.

9.2. Safety

Unsafe conditions can prevail in a disaster-affected area as a result of the incident itself, because of military tensions, as a function of deterioration in the social fabric, or due to a combination of these factors. For that reason a safety assessment of the situation should be made, and institutional and personal standards appropriate to the circumstances that have been identified should be established.
The people responsible for directing and coordinating activities should be abreast of safety conditions and should establish safety standards and give instructions accordingly. They must also ensure that these provisions are made known and understood by all the humanitarian responders.

Some basic standards include:

  • Inform yourself about unsafe areas, including areas in conflict within the emergency zone, both with regard to your work and to govern activities outside of working hours.
  • Undertake no action without the precautions needed to guarantee the safety of personnel.
  • Carry visible identification while working.
  • Establish schedules for shifts as the situation permits. It is preferable that missions be conducted during the day.
  • Frequent updates on the safety situation should be communicated, and any changes should be reported immediately.

Relief agencies with broad experience in on-site operations have prepared specific documents for their personnel that can furnish guidance for establishing standards. Read more in the IFRC guide to a safer mission.