Document Type


Publication Date

January 2004



First Page



Introduction. Humanitarian inviolability is the ability of humanitarian relief agencies, whether official agencies such as the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or private organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to act in situations of extreme human need and suffering, particularly in circumstances of armed conflict, with the assurance that their personnel, their property, and their activities will not be made the object of attack. It is a concept that is at the core of all humanitarian relief work, especially during war, when the cooperation of the belligerent parties is essential to the relief of suffering and privation. It rests upon two pillars: neutrality, which is the assurance given by humanitarian agencies that their efforts are not in military support of either side, and impartiality, which means such effort is rendered to the noncombatant population of each side without distinction and according to need.