Did you know that the Red Cross is governed by our Fundamental Principles? That means that the actions and decisions of the Canadian Red Cross are based on humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. You may have heard us refer to these principles before, but have you ever wondered what exactly they mean and how they guide our programs and activities? Let’s start with Fundamental Principle #1: Humanity.

This first principle can feel a little vague –we’re all part of humanity, right? Well here’s what we mean:

The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement was born from the desire to help people.  Human suffering is often an unavoidable part of being human, whether someone is dealing with something like personal pain, has experienced a natural disaster, is affected by war or conflict, or has lived through a personal disaster like a house fire. What the principle of humanity means is that this suffering is being recognized, and, in turn, the need is felt to help prevent, alleviate, protect and ensure the respect of those suffering. It’s also important that suffering isn’t trivialized, and that we take appropriate actions whenever we can, both in Canada and around the world.

This principle also reminds us that our purpose is to help protect people.

Protection doesn’t just mean protecting a person from the elements, but also includes protection found in things like International Humanitarian Law, or protecting life and health by treating and preventing illness and disease, taking humanitarian action after disasters, or even helping to give people the tools they need to be prepared.

There’s also more to humanitarian action than just providing immediate assistance. The principle of humanity calls not only for help during emergencies, but reminds us to take opportunities to prevent future suffering – like helping to develop the capacities needed to respond to disasters in the future, or assisting in building stronger infrastructures.

So while the principle of humanity sounds a little vague and basic at first, you can already see how it impacts the way the Red Cross functions and what we do. This is just the first of our principles, which together make an important set of guidelines that mean we can do the work that we do and help those who are the most vulnerable.