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Yugoslavia [Former] - Statement on Protection of Humanitarian Principles in Kosovo Refugee Response

15 April 1999

Issued jointly bythe WCC, CEC, LWF and WARC, Geneva, 15 April 1999.

The war in Yugoslavia and especially acts of ethnic cleansing committed by Serbian forces against the Albanian population in Kosovo have created a humanitarian crisis of dramatic proportions which presents immense challenges to international humanitarian organizations as well as to political and military actors.

Within this context the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) are deeply concerned that basic principles of humanitarian assistance which are fundamental to humanitarian refugee response be recognized and protected. These principles include the right to asylum under the same terms and conditions to which any other group of refugees is entitled, including evacuation on a voluntary basis only, respect for the unity of the family and priority for the elderly and vulnerable.

Established international humanitarian organizations and institutions have responsibility to ensure that such basic humanitarian principles are protected. In the present context the military has a necessary role in providing logistical support, in the establishment of infrastructure and in the safeguarding of both refugees and humanitarian personnel, but such support must be provided within the framework of humanitarian principles and under the coordination of these humanitarian organizations

Therefore the LWF, WCC, CEC and WARC call on all member churches and their related humanitarian agencies to press their respective governments:

  • to support the presence and coordination role of established international humanitarian agencies and institutions to ensure that established humanitarian principles are protected in all aspects of refugee response, including provision of sufficient support and resources to allow for assistance which meets the standards set out in the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Relief and the SPHERE Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Responses;
  • to ensure that lead humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR and ICRC be given sufficient support and prominence to equip them to coordinate humanitarian response;
  • to ensure that the actual management of refugee services be handled by humanitarian organizations and their personnel and that the role of military actors be limited to logistics, infrastructure and security.

Yorgo Lemopoulos                                 Keith Clements
Acting General Secretary                       General Secretary
World Council of Churches                     Conference of European Churches
Agneta Ucko                                           Milan Opocensky
Acting General Secretary                        General Secretary
Lutheran World Federation                    World Alliance of Reformed Churches