The unique position of Red Cross Red Crescent during conflict

National Societies and the ICRC have distinct mandates to carry out humanitarian activities in international armed conflicts, provided under international humanitarian law (IHL) (the Geneva Conventions and subsequent Protocols), as well as national laws and resolutions of International Red Cross Red Crescent Conferences.

Under IHL, parties to an armed conflict are legally required to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief for civilians in need during an armed conflict.

Adhering to the Principles of Humanity, Neutrality, Impartiality and Independence in its humanitarian work is the most important tool we must preserve dignity and save lives. Although often misunderstood, this way of working remains at the core of the ability to reach people in the most vulnerable situations during times of conflict.

Always operating according to these principles and engaging with all relevant stakeholders in these environments, helps build trust and ensure safer access to deliver humanitarian services, including:

  • Delivering impartial humanitarian assistance and other humanitarian services to civilians in need, the wounded and sick, and other victims of armed conflict
  • The ICRC visiting prisoners of war and civilian internees, wherever they are held, to assess their treatment and conditions of detention, and to reassure their families
  • Reuniting families who have been separated, or providing information about missing loved ones
  • Clearing mines and unexploded ordnances in Ukraine to make areas safer, and sharing information about mine safety and awareness
  • Supporting with voluntary safe passage out of areas with active conflict, as a neutral and impartial intermediary, in agreement with the parties to the conflict and with terms that are strictly humanitarian.


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