PHAP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
The ethical framework of the International Association of
Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) begins
with recognition of the value of all human life. During crisis
situations in which normal systems are not functioning, there is a need
for humanitarian action to protect and uphold human life and dignity. It
is for the sake of all crisis-affected people, now and in the future,
that we uphold this Code.
In additional to myriad practical challenges, humanitarian action
continually faces obstacles resulting from other powerful interests.
Achieving humanitarian aims in this complex world depends on the
credibility and reputation of humanitarian work, which is shaped by the
collective conduct of the individuals involved in it. This provides the
incentive for us to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of
consistent ethical conduct.
Humanitarian action is inherently confronted with ethical
considerations and dilemmas at every turn – often with life or death
implications. Furthermore, even with the best of intentions,
humanitarian action has the potential to cause harm if assistance and
protection are misused, politicized, or coopted by other interests, or
if dependencies are inadvertently created. This Code does not aim to
provide specific guidance for all, or even most, of these issues, but it
provides a common basis for ethical deliberation. Questions related to
ethical dilemmas are best answered by thoughtful consideration of
fundamental principles, rather than reliance on detailed regulations.
This Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct must be embraced and
upheld by all members of the Association, as well as those applying for
or holding certifications issued by the Association, whether they are
practitioners, supporters, facilitators, or partners of humanitarian
action. Members and certificants promise to uphold this Code and act
ethically and professionally above and beyond the baseline requirements
Without violating the Code, each member and certificant also
supplements the values and rules specified in the Code based on guidance
drawn from personal values, culture, and experience.
Shared understanding of humanitarian action
Members and certificants have and promote a shared understanding of
the core principles, central focus, limits, and duties of humanitarian
Members and certificants recognize that the practice of humanitarian
action is rooted in a set of core principles, which form the foundation
of the unique role and value of humanitarian action and distinguish it
from other forms of assistance and protection. These principles define
and guide, but must also be balanced within the context and complexity
of the human experience.
Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever
it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and
health and ensure respect for the human being.
Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried
out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases
of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality,
race, gender, religious belief, class, or political opinions.
Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides
in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial,
religious, or ideological nature.
Independence: Humanitarian action must be autonomous
from the political, economic, military, or other objectives that any
actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being
Members and certificants recognize that the principle of humanity,
which defines the purpose of humanitarian action, underscores that
people are at the heart of humanitarian action and that respect for the
dignity of crisis-affected people underpins all humanitarian activities.
They recognize that upholding human dignity requires supporting the
agency of crisis-affected people in all respects.
Members and certificants recognize the limits of humanitarian action
as an extraordinary activity in situations when the authorities
responsible for addressing identified needs are unable to do so.
Members and certificants recognize the duty of humanitarian action to
avoid jeopardizing lasting improvements of a situation or bringing
about any other negative effects. Humanitarian action should avoid
creating dependencies and other impediments to recovery and development
efforts, and should where possible facilitate such efforts.
Furthermore, while a commitment to neutrality endeavors to ensure
that humanitarian action is not driven by positions of a political,
racial, religious, or ideological nature, this does not mean that
humanitarian actors should be disengaged from policy discussions in
general. On the contrary, members and certificants recognize the duty of
humanitarian actors to understand and engage in the discussion and
formation of policies that affect their ability to pursue humanitarian
aims, and through doing so seek to maintain and expand space for
humanitarian action to be carried out.
Shared standards of professional conduct
Regardless of whether they are themselves directly engaged in
humanitarian activities as defined above, members and certificants
adhere to the following general standards of professional conduct:
- Handling power responsibly
I am conscious of the power I have and use it responsibly.
- Supporting the agency of others
I recognize the fundamental equality of all people.
I strive to support the agency of others in all aspects of my work.
I do not unnecessarily or inappropriately impose my will on others.
- Having high standards for myself and others
I adhere to the highest possible standards according to the situation, whether I am engaged in a volunteer or paid capacity.
- Being conscious of the commitments I make
I recognize the limitations of my expertise and, to the extent
possible, only undertake tasks that I am confident I can adequately
I accept responsibility for my work.
I follow through on my commitments.
- Improving my own capacities and those of people around me
I take responsibility for continually acquiring needed knowledge,
skills, and abilities for the local and international contexts of my
I assist colleagues to strengthen their capacities when needed.I strive
to use all appropriate resources available, including consultation with
- Respecting others and promoting ethical behavior
I take measures to discourage, prevent, and correct any unethical conduct of colleagues.
I value the diversity of actors within and supporting the humanitarian
sector and show respect for others in the professional community even
when I disagree.
I strive to be collegial, but I do not allow collegiality to outweigh shared responsibility for ethical behavior.
- Avoiding conflicts of interest
I avoid having my professional judgment compromised by conflicts of interest.
- Avoiding bias
I strive to be aware of my own biases and work to overcome them.
I strive to make judgments based on evidence and objective analysis rather than assumptions.
- Promoting awareness and understanding of principled humanitarian action
Whether or not I am engaged in humanitarian work myself, I promote
public awareness and understanding of principled humanitarian action.
Last updated 2 March 2017