Humanitarian Principles Policy
As a faith-based organisation that is actively engaged with humanitarian activities, GCS works objectively, independently and without bias. We are bound to the principles of humanitarian action and have adopted the Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action.
Humanitarian principles are central to the GCS mandate and core functions. The GCS mission is “To communicate the Gospel (good news) relevantly to every person in all the world.” This communication is not only done with words, but very often with actions. This means that we do not discriminate in any way, shape, or form as we seek to mobilise and coordinate principled humanitarian action.
Many faith-based NGOs like GCS have a unique comparative advantage in humanitarian contexts: they have an established relationship of trust and familiarity with local communities in which they are embedded. Due to their presence before a crisis, they are often the first responders and key providers of assistance and protection during crises, and they will remain after international organisations leave.
Utilising their localised networks, resource mobilisation, trust and influence with local communities and commitment to peace and dignity, they provide critical and sustainable contributions to all aspects of humanitarian response as well as subsequent development needs.
The Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action was endorsed at the World Humanitarian Summit by more than 160 faith-based actors (FBOs and religious Leaders), representing all major faith traditions and different geographical regions.
The charter presents concrete commitments from religious leaders and other humanitarian actors to increase the impact of faith-based actors in reducing humanitarian need and suffering, and to call for their inclusion within policy and decision making at all levels of humanitarian response. Over 150 faith-based humanitarian actors from all religious traditions and regions of the world were party to the development and launch of the Charter.
Faith-based entities commit to:
- Upholding the principles of compassion, humanity, and impartiality in their provision of humanitarian assistance and protection in alignment with fundamental humanitarian principles.
- Upholding and expanding the significant humanitarian response of faith-based organisations and to overcome the manipulative and abusive attempts to link religion with violence, terrorism, or exclusion of others.
Working together to better contextualise humanitarian response, leveraging their added value to reach people in need of assistance and protection, and using their influence to mobilise local communities in support of these efforts.
Bringing their intimate knowledge of community needs, practices, fears, and hopes to humanitarian work, to keep affected persons at the centre of all assistance planned and provided, maintaining robust beneficiary feedback mechanisms and to ensure that women and girls’ rights are protected, their needs are met, and that their ability to engage in decision making is enhanced.
- Facilitating spiritual assistance which can significantly contribute to the population’s sense of hope during and after a disaster, while prohibiting pressuring people into any religious practice and continuing to work with national governments to recognize and affirm the role of faith and faith-based organisations to provide faith-based assistance to communities in need.
Charter for Faith-Based Humanitarian Action
Provision of aid to all those who need it
Our religious teachings, although diverse, teach us the importance of compassion and of one common shared humanity, where each human being is important in him/herself. Human dignity and the welfare of all people are the main objectives of faith and religion, with the principal role to serve other people. Learning from faith-based organisations, which are known to provide selfless service to all in need, irrespective of their faith, ethnicity, gender, and geography, we (faith-based organisations and other humanitarian actors), commit to upholding the principles of compassion, humanity, and impartiality in our provision of humanitarian assistance and protection in alignment with fundamental humanitarian principles.
Contribution to peace and reconciliation
In a world where conflicts, violence, and natural disaster affect millions of people, faith-based entities share a critical responsibility and role in working for peace, both at local and national or international levels. We facilitate sustainable behaviour and relationship changes based on faith and worldview, offering mediation and sacred space for dialogue between parties.
We commit to uphold and expand the significant humanitarian response of faith-based organizations and to overcome the manipulative and abusive attempts to link religion with violence, terrorism, or exclusion of others. By so doing, we aim to resolve conflicts and work to promote reconciliation.
We call upon religious communities to use their social capital to amplify humanitarian diplomacy and to promote compliance with International Humanitarian Law as this contributes to the maintenance and restoration of peace. We call upon the United Nations, international organizations, regional and national authorities to acknowledge and support these roles, and to encourage them.
Proximity to communities
Through local faith communities and grassroots NGOs, faith-based actors are uniquely placed to engage in humanitarian action: faith-based actors often enjoy close proximity to, or are part of the populations affected by wider crises, and have therefore developed special relationships of trust, as well as insights and access to community members compared to many other actors; we are often present before crises and are first responders when disasters hit. We are key providers of assistance and protection during crises and their aftermath.
We call upon international organizations to recognize and affirm the significant, and often unique contributions of religious communities and NGOs, and to consider them to be equal partners, opening up access to adequate funding to support our efforts.
We (faith-based and other humanitarian actors) commit to working together to better contextualize humanitarian response, leveraging our added value to reach people in need of assistance and protection, and using our influence to mobilize our local communities in support of these efforts.
Direct humanitarian contribution
In addition to their social and spiritual work, faith-based organizations conduct humanitarian action in situations of crises, for the benefit of all people affected, those sharing their faith as well as those of other faiths and non-believers.
We call for this support to be recognised by international and national actors, and government and donor organisations, as a contribution to alleviating needs and the effects of humanitarian crises.
We call for constructive dialogue between faith and non-faith players in the larger interest of communities in need.
We call upon leaders of communities, other community-based religious organizations, to educate faith and community leaders in humanitarian action in collaboration with faith-based humanitarian organizations, as we expect humanitarian actors to be educated in the unique ways of working and perspective of the faith community.
Our commitment to end hunger and to serve the most vulnerable in a humanitarian setting depends on knowledge and sensitivity to cultural and religious norms. We commit to bringing our intimate knowledge of community needs, practices, fears, and hopes to humanitarian work.
We commit to keeping affected persons at the centre of all assistance planned and provided, maintaining robust beneficiary feedback mechanisms.
We commit to ensuring that women and girls rights are protected, their needs are met, and that their ability to engage in decision making is enhanced as this is a proven strategy for increasing the effectiveness of humanitarian action as a means of building resilience for all members of families and communities.
We commit to continuing to play an active role in response coordination, while we reinforce organizational systems and structures to allow us to meet growing humanitarian needs.
Religious communities and faith-based organisations are uniquely positioned to provide spiritual assistance to people affected by conflict and disaster.
We request all actors to recognise the right of communities in need to access the best of spiritual service and seek to collaborate with faith leaders and faith-based organisations to provide for the same.
In addition to material assistance and other services, we therefore commit to facilitating spiritual assistance which can significantly contribute to the population’s sense of hope during and after a disaster, while prohibiting pressuring people into any religious practice.
We commit to continuing to work with national governments to recognize and affirm the role of faith and faith-based organisations to provide faith-based assistance to communities in need.
Our stance on humanitarian principles
As a faith-based organisation that is actively engaged with humanitarian activities, GCS works objectively, independently and without bias. We are bound to the principles of humanitarian action.
Since the Red Cross movement first promoted them in the 19th century, these principles have shaped the nature of modern aid. Today, their core is reflected in international humanitarian law. These principles serve as practical tools to guide and enable the everyday work of GCS in our humanitarian operations.
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 affected people, whether in a disaster or a complex emergency, such as armed conflict. Promoting and ensuring compliance with these principles are essential for effective humanitarian coordination and response.
To prevent and alleviate suffering wherever it may be found. To protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being.
To carry out humanitarian action without discrimination, to relieve suffering, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
To remain independent from political, economic, military, or other non-humanitarian objectives.
To abstain from taking sides in hostilities. To refrain from engagement in political, religious, racial, or ideological debates and controversies.
Relevance and implementation
The humanitarian principles have practical operational relevance. Adherence to the principles is critical to distinguish humanitarian action from the activities and objectives of political, military, and other actors, especially in complex and militarised environments where humanitarian action often takes place. Promoting humanitarian principles and, importantly, ensuring that humanitarian organisations act in accordance with them are key to gaining acceptance by all relevant actors on the ground for humanitarian action to be carried out. This acceptance is critical to ensuring humanitarian personnel have safe, unimpeded, and sustained access to affected people.
Sustained and principled access is, in turn, crucial for strengthening implementation of the humanitarian principles. For example, it allows humanitarian actors to directly undertake and monitor the distribution of assistance to people, thus ensuring that aid is distributed impartially and reaches those most in need.
Strengthening the principles: our advocacy work
Humanitarian principles are central to the GCS mandate and core functions. The GCS mission is “To communicate the Gospel (good news) relevantly to every person in all the world.” This means that we do not discriminate in any way, shape, or form as we seek to mobilise and coordinate principled humanitarian action. GCS works to promote the humanitarian community’s adherence to humanitarian principles in every humanitarian response, and to build understanding of and respect for the humanitarian principles among non-humanitarian stakeholders. It does this by promoting practical compliance measures within the organisation and through its engagement with State, non-State, and Inter-Agency bodies.
Our compliance with humanitarian principles affects our credibility and therefore, our ability to enter negotiations with relevant actors and establish safe access to affected people.
However, it is not enough to repeatedly recite humanitarian principles; rhetoric must be matched by leadership and practice. In other words, humanitarian actors must “walk the talk”.
There are multiple pressures on humanitarian actors to compromise humanitarian principles, such as providing humanitarian aid as part of efforts to achieve political ends. Maintaining principled humanitarian action in the face of these pressures is essential to ensure humanitarian response is guided solely by the specific needs of affected people in all contexts.
GCS use these principles to identify the people who are most in need of assistance and protection. We then use the principles to gain access to them, through negotiations with communities.
Even though there is a strong awareness of these principles in humanitarian agencies, we recognise that many organisations and individuals sometimes struggle to apply them.
GCS works to increase awareness of, and adherence to, these principles.