Applying the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in a relevant manner in concrete operational settings is a constant challenge for humanitarian organizations. Bound by this set of norms, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has incrementally developed over the years a rational framework that allows its leadership and staff on the ground to act according to these principles while developing adapted solutions and pragmatic approaches. This article begins by describing the history and development of the humanitarian principles; it then explains how the strategic choices of the ICRC are informed by these principles, and what the consequences are for the organization's capacity to act in favour of victims of armed conflicts.
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