People who work in the humanitarian field are some of the most selfless and caring people out there. They work hard to make sure that they help people who need it without bias or judgement. While many people know about the basic principles of humanitarian action, we wanted to take a minute to go over them here so you can understand them too!

Voluntary service

This principle is so important that it’s number one on the list. It refers to the practice of voluntary service and the core value of humanitarian action.

Voluntary service means helping those in need without expecting anything in return, even if there isn’t an immediate reward for your efforts. For example, when you volunteer to teach English at an orphanage or mentor a child through their schoolwork, you’re volunteering your time and skills because you want to help people who have less than you do.

Giving your time, making a financial or material donation (such as food or clothing), or planning activities like bake sales are all forms of volunteer work. Teaching someone a skill is another way to volunteer (for example: fixing a car engine). It counts as volunteer service as long as it doesn’t hinder their ability to serve themselves in the future (like taking care of themselves)!

“Volunteering is at the very core of being a human.  No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.”


Humanitarian action is based on universal humanitarian values that apply to everyone in all situations.
The most significant principle is humanity. The protection and advancement of human life is the foundation of humanitarian action.

 In particular:

  • People affected by conflict or disaster are entitled to be treated with humanity at all times, including when receiving aid;
  • All bodies involved in providing health care must operate according to medical ethics;
  • The use of force against civilians is never justified;


As a humanitarian, you must have an understanding of what it means to be neutral. Neutrality is often misunderstood and misused, so this is an important concept to understand.

The main mistake is thinking that being neutral entails having an unbiased point of view or not taking sides. This is not at all true! Being neutral means giving equal respect and attention to all parties involved in a conflict, no matter how difficult it may be.
Additionally, maintaining neutrality means observing how various groups are treated differently based on their identity rather than treating everyone equally (for example: women and men).


Impartiality is the principle of treating all people equally and without discrimination. Impartiality is a core value of humanitarian action, which ensures that the assistance provided by humanitarian workers and organizations reaches those in greatest need regardless of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

If God fairness, impartiality, equity, are his essence, that should become dominant in any society”

― Sunday Adelaja

This principle protects and promotes human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Impartiality is a cornerstone of the humanitarian principles that guide our work around the world


Being independent means having the freedom to decide what is best for you, your colleagues, and the people you are serving.
Independence in humanitarian work means that we are not working for a government or organisation that has a certain agenda. We still work with governments and non-governmental organisations, nevertheless (NGOs). However, it does imply that they have no influence at all on our work.

 For example: if a government says “don’t go there” or “don’t do this” – we won’t follow their instructions.

It’s important because without independence, humanitarian workers can be manipulated by governments into doing things they don’t want to do – like changing their focus or even putting lives at risk. The best way to ensure independence is through funding from donors who give money without conditions attached – called earmarked funds – rather than general budget support which may come with strings attached.*

Know the basics

“You must learn the basics. The principles of humanitarian action are not difficult to understand; they’re pretty straightforward and simple. But many people don’t know them, so they make mistakes that can be costly and even dangerous. Here’s a quick review:

The basic tenets of humanitarianism don’t need to be difficult or strange; they merely call for some understanding and common sense. If you wish to provide food help in a catastrophe situation, for instance, you will need to have enough food on hand to feed every person affected by the disaster for two weeks without any pauses in distribution or access to other food sources. 

Humanitarian action is about more than just saving lives. It’s about helping people to live their lives with dignity and respect. The five principles listed above are the foundation of all humanitarian work, and they provide guidance for everyone involved—from volunteers to aid workers, from donors and governments to the public at large.

Payomatix Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

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Ruchi Rathor

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