Afghanistan: Joint Operating Principles - Ensuring the Delivery of Principled Humanitarian Assistance (revised August 2021) [EN/Dari/Pashto]


The Joint Operating Principles (JOPs) were endorsed by the HCT in December 2019 and revised in August 2021

Purpose and scope: The aid community engaged in humanitarian response in Afghanistan agrees that these Joint Operating Principles (JOPs) reflect humanitarian policies and established practices for interaction with parties to the conflict and other stakeholders. All humanitarian actors -- including those with dual mandates (humanitarian and development) -- agree to hold ourselves and our sub-contractors, suppliers and those we contract for related programming accountable to these shared thresholds. These JOPs form the framework for engagement in bilateral and joint negotiations with authorities and armed groups at local, national and international levels in an increasingly complex situation.

Core Humanitarian Principles: Humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence are the core fundamental principles for humanitarian action. These principles are derived from International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and other normative documents, and are part of codes of conduct and mission statements guiding humanitarian organizations.

A. Principles - Humanitarian operations and actors are guided by:

  1. Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable populations, such as children, women, people with disabilities and the elderly. The dignity and rights of survivors must be respected and protected.

  2. Neutrality: Humanitarian actors will not participate individually or organizationally in hostilities or taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature.

  3. Impartiality: Assistance is provided without discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin, political opinion, gender, nationality, race or religion. Provision of humanitarian assistance is guided solely by needs, and priority is given to the most vulnerable cases.

  4. Operational 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 activities are being implemented.

In practice, the humanitarian actors agree to principles of:

  1. Do no harm: Humanitarian actors must strive to 'do no harm' or to minimize potential harm when being present and providing assistance.

  2. Dignity: People in need shall be respected as equal partners in action in all activities and their dignity as human beings will be maintained in all communications.

  3. Transparency and accountability: Humanitarian actors act in a transparent manner with all parties and are accountable to those whom they assist.

  4. Cultural Sensitivity: Humanitarian actors aim to ensure that local customs, cultures and religions are respected while simultaneously adhering to international humanitarian standards around gender and equality.

  5. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Humanitarian actors commit -- individually and organizationally -- to creating and maintaining an environment in which sexual violence is not tolerated and prohibited for all interactions.

B. Actions:

In order to be able to address human suffering, provide life-saving assistance and protection activities, humanitarian actors will:

  1. Engage with parties to the conflict and relevant actors; this engagement should never be considered political legitimization, recognition of - or support to - a party of conflict.

  2. Call for all parties to the conflict to respect and promote humanitarian principles and ensure the protection of aid workers and those communities served.

  3. Coordinate and compliment their activities with other humanitarian partners operating in the same locations to share lessons learnt, ensure transparency and avoid duplication.

  4. Seek safe, timely, principled and unimpeded access to all affected people.

  5. Conduct independent needs assessments and identify beneficiaries for humanitarian assistance based on established vulnerability criteria that accounts for specific vulnerabilities, including gender and disability.

  6. Inform and educate beneficiaries that the provided assistance fully belongs to them without any obligation to share it with third parties, including parties to the conflict and other community members.

  7. Ensure a meaningful engagement of beneficiaries in needs assessment, prioritization, planning, implementation and monitoring of humanitarian activities under a coordinated framework of accountability to affected populations.

  8. Conduct monitoring and evaluation activities to ensure that the assistance reached the intended beneficiaries.

  9. Where applicable, and as mandated under International Humanitarian Law, deliver medical assistance to all persons based on need; this may include parties to the conflict 'hors de combat'.

  10. Support other humanitarian partners in operating in line with the JOPs and ensure transparent reporting on access challenges, including on lessons learnt.

  11. Sensitize donors to adopt a flexible and conflict sensitive approach to enable principled access for humanitarian programming in line with the engagement strategy.

Humanitarian actors will not accede to requests to:

  1. Submit to programming demands from any party to the conflict based on violence, abduction or intimidation (physical or administrative).

  2. Interfere with the selection of staff, partners, vendors or beneficiaries of humanitarian actors or provide confidential information about staff, partners, vendors and beneficiaries.

  3. Pay taxes, duties or other payments on humanitarian projects, services to beneficiaries or aid deliveries.

  4. Allow parties to the conflict to take control of humanitarian facilities - including warehouse, vehicles, commodities and any other humanitarian assets - or permit armed actors to enter or control access to humanitarian facilities or vehicles;

  5. Deliver humanitarian assistance to armed actors or parties to the conflict.

  6. Limit access of humanitarian actors based on demographic characteristics, including gender, age and ethnicity.

  7. Provide personal information identifying beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance to any external actors in exchange for access, nor in instances where it would place the beneficiary at risk of exploitation or harm.

  8. Share sensitive personal information of staff members. Any request for staff details for humanitarian notification purposes will be handled in compliance with humanitarian principles and data sharing protocols and information will only be shared with the approval of the concerned staff member.

  9. Enable coercive or other unsafe returns, relocations or resettlements of affected population.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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