THE BLOG
08/10/2015 08:11 BST | Updated 07/10/2016 06:12 BST

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Celebrates 50 years of Fundamental Principles in Action

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement today celebrates 50 years of its Fundamental Principles in action. British Red Cross humanitarian policy expert, Amelia Kyazze reflects on how the Principles are helping the movement respond to the current refugee crisis.

Around the world, violence, poverty and persecution has forcibly displaced over 60 million people - the highest total since the end of World War II . The vast majority have fled within their own country or to a country neighbouring their own. Many are not able to travel far, trapped by conflict, insecurity, oppression and deprivation. This year alone, more than half a million migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean, and tragically nearly 3,000 have drowned.

People who survive the perilous journey and reach Europe are often in desperate need of medical care, food, water shelter and other basic assistance. Many will be helped initially by the Red Cross or one of the other humanitarian organisations responding to this vast crisis. More than likely they will be helped by a volunteer. The Red Cross has over 17 million, trained and dedicated volunteers, who give up their free time to help others.

Volunteering is a cornerstone of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is part of the 7 Fundamental Principles agreed in Vienna, 50 years ago today.

Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence are the first Four Fundamental Principles, which we use to guide our work. But for the Movement these four are indivisible from our other three principles: Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality. Taken together, these Principles are what define the Movement; they are what keep us focused, balanced and influential.

They are practical tools for gaining access and initiating programmes with new groups of vulnerable people. They work for local and national organisations just as much as international organisations. Independence and Neutrality are a difficult balancing act, and take strong leadership. The Principles are useful not just in conflict situations, but also in times of uncertainty, civil unrest, or planning for elections, for example.

The Principles are extremely important for acceptance, establishing services based on need and pushing back for humanitarian space in every country in the world. Work explaining the Principles needs to happen in peacetime, in an on-going dialogue with authorities, the public and the media, not waiting until the situation unravels.

But how does the current refugee and migrant crisis show our Principles in action? The Principle of Humanity compels us to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it is found. With this in mind, we could not turn away from this emergency. Universality has helped us build a truly global movement - one that is able to help people in Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Hungary, the UK and almost any other country on their route.

Impartiality means we don't discriminate but simply focus on those most in need - so much of our help this summer has gone to older people, young children and those with disabilities. And Independence means our commitment to helping refugees has not wavered even as Europe's politicians stall over how and when to act.

Yet again, the Principles have proved their worth. In Vienna this week, we will gather to mark 50 years since their creation . This summer has shown us that whether people's crises spring from migration, conflict, natural disaster or any other emergency, these seven simple but brilliant tools are as powerful today as they were in 1965.