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Keywords:

  • accountability;
  • behaviour;
  • codes;
  • policy development;
  • Sphere;
  • standards

Abstract

This paper reflects on the genesis of the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief, on the tenth anniversary of its adoption. The origins, usage and future of the code are examined with respect to three debates, current at the time of its inception, namely: the debate about the core content of humanitarianism; the debate about coherence and the consensual nature of the humanitarian community; and the debate about the need for, and the ability to demonstrate, accountability. The paper concludes that although the Code of Conduct was very much a product of its time, its content remains relevant today. However, its future application hinges on the capacity of those who purport to follow it to realise true accountability, and on proving that the code, written essentially for natural disasters, is relevant to contemporary complex emergencies.