IOM’s Principles for Humanitarian Action (PHA): A Policy for the Field - Next Steps

By William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General

Last year we embarked on a pivotal process of defining IOM’s actions vis-à-vis the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality and to have them embedded in a policy – IOM’s Principles for Humanitarian Action (PHA).

We are dealing with the complexity and surge of today’s simultaneous crises, from ISIS in Iraq and Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, to the increase in ‘desperation migration’ and migrant fatalities en route to developed countries.

In this troubled context, the humanitarian principles remind us that the humanitarian imperative of saving lives, alleviating suffering and preserving dignity must prevail; and that our actions must not be used or hijacked for political gain. This was my main message to the World Humanitarian Summit regional consultations.

But we need to go beyond the words:

Thanks to your dedication, we are at the heart of the international humanitarian system for delivering humanitarian response to vulnerable migrants, displaced persons and affected communities. This role brings responsibilities that the development of the PHA aims at clarifying at all levels but foremost at the field level, where our actions take place.

Such an effort to assist and protect populations in need also includes further interpretation of protection in our crisis response and strengthening our framework to promote durable solutions to end displacement.

Regarding protection mainstreaming, we have made significant progress towards mitigating gender-based violence and other forms of exploitation in our current operations. The Protection Mainstreaming policy will aim at consolidating and systematizing the integration of non–discrimination, safety and dignity, empowerment and participation considerations in IOM’s response to migration crises.

The Durable Solutions policy recognizes the daunting task we face when trying to move beyond immediate humanitarian assistance to end displacement in a sustainable way. It is in this context that we are consolidating our ‘know-how’ to promote good practice and develop a conceptual framework that would build on IOM’s comprehensive mandate, bringing together humanitarian, peace and security, and development objectives to the benefit of forced migrants.

Together, we have made great progress in the development of IOM’s PHA. In January I held a Special SMT meeting to approve the draft for the next crucial phase: field testing and broader consultations.  

Vetting the draft policy against our operating reality is the prerequisite to make it fulfil its role: strengthening IOM’s humanitarian response; a shared objective across the Organization as revealed by the global staff survey. As this process will start shortly I count again on your support to help in testing the current draft and developing the tools required to implement it in practice.