Iraq humanitarian aid must be impartial and independent, says worldwide church aid alliance

[Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a worldwide network of churches and church agencies that coordinate their emergency humanitarian aid. Lutheran World Relief is a member and LWR President Kathryn Wolford is the newly elected moderator of ACT. The association's annual meeting has re-affirmed current international humanitarian principles for use in case of war in Iraq. Below are the main points.]
Geneva, March 4, 2003 - "Humanitarian impartiality is imperative and paramount. Humanitarian aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint. Humanitarian aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Humanitarian aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone.

"Humanitarian agencies must be given unconditional access to the affected population, the space to work in, and maintain the right to take independent positions and actions.

"ACT members will not act as instruments of foreign policy of donor governments nor accept government funding that promotes military or geopolitical interests in the conflict. The preferred sources of funding are from general public funds and other institutions without military forces engaged in Iraq.

"Of grave concern to ACT International is the fact that there seems to be a concerted effort to blur military and humanitarian actions, with the result that humanitarian purposes have been co-opted by the military. A military-led relief and reconstruction effort is against humanitarian principles and is unacceptable to ACT International members whose independence and safety around the world would be compromised by such a close relationship with military occupation forces."

Civilian and United Nations - rather than military - co-ordination of aid is essential, the statement continued.

Echoing numerous appeals by churches in the alliance, the ACT statement also said that "we do not believe all efforts for a peaceful resolution have been exhausted" in the crisis over Iraq.