Everything the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement does is guided by our seven Fundamental Principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. We’re taking a closer look at exactly what these principles mean, and how they govern our actions – today we’re looking at fundamental principle #2: Impartiality.

What does it mean to be impartial, especially in a world full of complex conflicts, difficult situations, and drastically differing views? At the Canadian Red Cross it means that when it comes to delivering aid, we are guided by needs – we give priority to the most urgent cases of distress, regardless of nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. Simply put, the person most in need of help is helped first, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they think.

An extreme example of this would be that if several people were injured in an attack, and the combatant who carried out the attack was in the greatest need of help, the principle of impartiality says that’s the person to help first. As you can probably tell, impartiality can be hard at times, but it is incredibly important to the work of the Red Cross.

Why is it important?

The first principle of the Red Cross is humanity. At our core the Red Cross exists to help alleviate human suffering. This means we exist to help people.

At times of suffering, like during emergencies and disasters, those who need help will get help. But need to take into account how much they are suffering, what their  unmet or urgent needs are – for example, if a storm totally knocked down one house, and only broke a window in the next house, the needs are much different. That wouldn’t mean the person with the broken window wasn’t suffering because of it, but it does mean that the person whose entire home is gone would receive more help.  In short, Red Cross priorities are set based on need.