Over 200 participants joined this PHAP-hosted online event on the principle of neutrality, part of the World Humanitarian Summit consultations. A high level panel with speakers from the ICRC, NRC, Oxfam, and the Lebanese NGO Amel International, were joined by Harvard PILAC's Dustin Lewis, who provided a briefing on the legal framework and historical background of the principle of neutrality.

Event description

On 8 January 2015, PHAP hosted a special online consultation event on the principle of neutrality in humanitarian action as part of the World Humanitarian Summit consultations. Over 200 participants joined us for a high level discussion with constant interaction from the audience, which contributed with important questions and comments.

The principle of neutrality, included for example in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and in UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182, is concerned with not taking sides in hostilities and not engaging at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious, or ideological nature. Such neutral action is generally considered as a crucial means for humanitarian organizations to be able to pursue their humanitarian work in an impartial manner – on the basis of need.

The event was introduced with a special briefing by Dustin Lewis, Senior Researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC), on the principle of neutrality and its development as a principle for humanitarian action. It was then followed by a panel discussion facilitated by Angharad Laing, Executive Director of PHAP, which focused on current debates in the larger humanitarian community related to the principle of neutrality and their implications, with Carsten Völz, Humanitarian Director of Oxfam International; Ingrid Macdonald, Director, Geneva and Humanitarian Policy at Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC); Jérémie Labbé, Head of Project Principles Guiding Humanitarian Action at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and Kamel Mohanna, founder of the Lebanese NGO Amel.

This event was part of PHAP's contribution to the World Humanitarian Summit consultation process on the theme of Serving the Needs of People in Conflict.

The World Humanitarian Summit, convened by United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and managed by OCHA, will bring all interested humanitarian stakeholders together to set out a new course for how we collaborate in the vital effort to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and man-made crises around the world. PHAP, in its capacity as the only sector-wide professional association of individuals engaged in humanitarian assistance and protection worldwide, is actively supporting the Summit process, and is helping to improve accessibility and bring practitioner perspectives to the discussions.

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Event report

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Guest expert

Dustin A. Lewis is a Senior Researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC). With a focus on public international law sources and methodologies, he leads research projects on the theoretical underpinnings and application of international norms related to contemporary challenges concerning armed conflict.


Jérémie Labbé works for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the Head of Project for Principles Guiding Humanitarian Action. Prior to this, he worked for the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York, where he developed a new program on humanitarian affairs. His work has focused on the adaptation of the international humanitarian system to a changing world, the relevance of humanitarian principles, protection of civilians and international humanitarian law, and the relation between humanitarian action and UN integration. Before joining IPI in 2010, he has spent several years with the ICRC, both in its headquarters in Geneva and in different field missions in India, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Iraq. He is a member of the thematic team on Serving the Needs of People in Conflict for the World Humanitarian Summit.

Ingrid Macdonald is currently Director, Geneva and Humanitarian Policy at Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), where she has worked in different capacities since 2007. Ingrid worked previously with Oxfam as Sudan Policy Advisor in Khartoum, Sudan (2005 to 2007), and as the Deputy Director of Research, Policy and Projects with the New Zealand Defence Force. She has published on issues ranging from corporate social responsibility, human rights, and extractives industries, civil military relations, land and property lands of internally displaced people and refugees, and humanitarian space.

Kamel Mohanna is a paediatric specialist from Lebanon. He was active as a medical doctor in most of the conflicts that have affected his country, starting with the civil war from 1975. He has also been a volunteer doctor in Yemen. In 1979, he founded the NGO Amel, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that supports the most underprivileged populations in Lebanon, through various programs involving health care, psychosocial support, rural development, vocational training, child protection and the promotion of human rights. Among other activities, Amel also helps victims of war and was very active during the 2006 conflict. Dr Mohanna currently chairs the government commission for war injured. He is a member of the thematic team on Serving the Needs of People in Conflict for the World Humanitarian Summit.

Carsten Völz is the Humanitarian Director of Oxfam International. He has been active in international humanitarian assistance and development cooperation since 1994. Carsten has worked in grassroots projects and country programmes, with regional and global responsibilities across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Over the past two decades, he has led several leading humanitarian organizations’ major disaster response and recovery programmes from Rwanda to the Balkans to Darfur, in the South Asian floods and the Horn of Africa drought. Carsten’s recent positions include those of Global Head of Emergency Operations of CARE International and Sudan Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.


Angharad Laing is currently the Executive Director of the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) and has worked in the field of humanitarian policy since 2003. She is also a board member of the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE) and a member of the Steering Committee of ELRHA. Having previously worked in the private sector, she spent several years with the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.

January 8th, 2015 2:00 PM   through   4:00 PM

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