Statement by Action by Churches Together (ACT) International relating to humanitarian principles in the event of a war in Iraq

The global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, at it's annual Emergency Committee meeting held on February 27 - 28, 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland, affirmed its commitment to upholding accepted and acknowledged international humanitarian principles, should a war against Iraq take place.
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.

As such, 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's members and the member churches of the World Council of Churches have made a clear and strong commitment to humanitarian aid being delivered in an impartial and independent way. Therefore, as humanitarian NGOs likely to be engaged in Iraq during and after a war, 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. Without civilian co-ordination of humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, NGOs and other humanitarian actors will be unable to effectively meet the enormous humanitarian needs. As such, ACT International affirms its commitment to upholding acknowledged and internationally accepted UN co-ordination mechanisms and structures in the case of humanitarian disasters.

As an alliance whose members are made up of churches and their related aid agencies around the world, we believe that all conflict should be resolved through whatever peaceful means possible. In the instance of Iraq, we do not believe all efforts for a peaceful resolution have been exhausted.

ACT International issues this statement to complement the many statements that its church members have issued related to war against Iraq.