Of all the seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, neutrality and impartiality are perhaps the least well understood. They are often confused with each other and give rise to controversy. How can a National Society that is an auxiliary of the public authorities possibly be called neutral? Isn't neutrality sometimes synonymous with passivity or indifference? Can the ICRC regard itself as neutral when it points publicly to violation of international humanitarian law? Does impartiality mean sharing relief equally between the victims on both sides of a conflict? Is it possible to give humanitarian assistance to only one of the parties without violating the principes of neutrality and impartiality? The aim of this article is not to answer these questions, but to show their implications and set the reader thinking.
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