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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Core Standard 1: People-centred humanitarian response

People’s capacity and strategies to survive with dignity are integral to the design and approach of humanitarian response.


Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Guidance notes

  1. Local capacity: Disaster-affected people possess and acquire skills, knowledge and capacities to cope with, respond to and recover from disasters. Active participation in humanitarian response is an essential foundation of people’s right to life with dignity affirmed in Principles 6 and 7 of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief (see Annex 2 ). Self-help and community-led initiatives contribute to psychological and social well-being through restoring dignity and a degree of control to disaster-affected populations. Access to social, financial, cultural and emotional support through extended family, religious networks and rituals, friends, schools and community activities helps to re-establish individual and community self-respect and identity, decrease vulnerability and enhance resilience. Local people should be supported to identify and, if appropriate, reactivate or establish supportive networks and self-help groups. The extent to which people participate, and how they do so, will be determined by how recently the disaster occurred and by the physical, social and political circumstances. Indicators signalling participation should, therefore, be selected according to context and represent all those affected. The local population is usually the first to react in a disaster and even early in a response some degree of participation is always feasible. Explicit efforts to listen to, consult and engage people at an early stage will increase quality and community management later in the programme.
  2. Feedback mechanisms provide a means for all those affected to influence programme planning and implementation (see HAP’s ‘participation’ benchmark). They include focus group discussions, surveys, interviews and meetings on ‘lessons learnt’ with a representative sample of all the affected population (see ECB’s Good Enough Guide for tools and Guidance notes 3–4). The findings and the agency’s actions in response to feedback should be systematically shared with the affected population.
  3. Representative participation: Understanding and addressing the barriers to participation faced by different people is critical to balanced participation. Measures should be taken to ensure the participation of members of all groups of affected people – young and old, men and women. Special efforts should be made to include people who are not well represented, are marginalised (e.g. by ethnicity or religion) or otherwise ‘invisible’ (e.g. housebound or in an institution). The participation of youth and children should be promoted so far as it is in their own best interest and measures taken to ensure that they are not exposed to abuse or harm.
  4. Sharing information: People have a right to accurate and updated information about actions taken on their behalf. Information can reduce anxiety and is an essential foundation of community responsibility and ownership. At a minimum, agencies should provide a description of the agency’s mandate and project(s), the population’s entitlements and rights, and when and where to access assistance (see HAP’s ‘sharing information’ benchmark). Common ways of sharing information include noticeboards, public meetings, schools, newspapers and radio broadcasts. The information should demonstrate considered understanding of people’s situations and be conveyed in local language(s), using a variety of adapted media so that it is accessible to all those concerned. For example, use spoken communications or pictures for children and adults who cannot read, use uncomplicated language (i.e. understandable to local 12-year-olds) and employ a large typeface when printing information for people with visual impairments. Manage meetings so that older people or those with hearing difficulties can hear.
  5. Safe and accessible spaces: Locate public meeting places in secure areas and ensure they are accessible to those with restricted mobility including to women whose attendance at public events is limited by cultural norms. Provide child-friendly spaces for children to play, learn, socialise and develop.
  6. Complaints: People have the right to complain to an agency and seek a corresponding response (see HAP’s ‘handling complaints’ benchmark). Formal mechanisms for complaints and redress are an essential component of an agency’s accountability to people and help communities to re-establish control over their lives.
  7. Culturally appropriate practices, such as burials and religious ceremonies and practices, are often an essential element of people’s identity, dignity and capacity to recover from disaster. Some culturally acceptable practices violate people’s human rights (e.g. denial of education to girls and female genital mutilation) and should not be supported.