Our principle of Impartiality expresses the willingness and readiness of Red Cross and Red Crescent to come to the help of each individual who is in need regardless of who or where they are. It can challenge us very personally as volunteers and staff, requiring us to put aside our personal biases and to make decisions on the basis of facts alone, in the face of very stressful situations.

Once careful assessments are made by our trained teams, the challenge according to the principle of Impartiality is to prioritize our response and provide relief in proportion to the needs. In practice, we know this is not easy. We know too well that in the face of large scale disasters the needs can be overwhelming. In the case of smaller scale, silent disasters it can be difficult to attract the resources needed.

In 1985 the IFRC established the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) as a means to address this.

I am proud that thanks to this fund, 120 million people have benefited from timely funding and a flexible approach that allows National Societies to address immediate needs of affected people that may otherwise have had to wait too long in precarious circumstances.

The fund has ensured National Societies could respond within hours of disasters occurring – such as following the earthquake that stuck in Nepal – or to allow National Societies to take precautions and prepare contingencies – such as in the lead up to their elections in places including Nigeria and South Sudan.

We have a joint responsibility and a collective accountability to reach all those in need. And we need creative, thoughtful and flexible solutions to be ready to identify and respond to the needs. Our commitment to the principle of impartiality demands it.