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Why a climate and environment charter for humanitarian organizations? 

The climate and environment crises are humanitarian crises, threatening the future of humanity. They are already affecting people’s lives and livelihoods around the world, and their impact is growing all the time. While these crises are affecting all of us, those most affected by their consequences are the poorest and most marginalized communities, whose capacity to adapt is already strained, owing to armed conflict, displacement, weak governance, unplanned urbanization or poverty. All of these situations are exacerbated by structural inequities and by people’s individual characteristics, such as age, gender, disability or livelihood.

The Charter sends a clear signal that humanitarian organizations have a key role to play in addressing these crises. We must be a part of the solution and help people adapt to a changing climate and environment, while also increasing our own environmental sustainability. This needs to be a collective endeavour, as it is clear that no organization can tackle this alone. This Charter intends to provide a clear vision and principles to guide humanitarian action in the face of the climate and environment crises.

How was the Charter developed? 

The development of the Charter was led by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and guided by an Advisory Committee of 19 people, including representatives of local, national and international NGOs,  UN agencies and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as academics, researchers and experts in the humanitarian, development, climate and environmental fields. This committee represents and is linked to a number of important humanitarian networks, including the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, the Alliance for Empowering Partnership, InterAction, the Environment and Humanitarian Action Network, the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee sub-working group on climate change.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, discussions were held with more than 150 organizations and over 200 individuals. The organizations included more than 50 national NGOs/local chapters of international NGOs, national and international NGO networks and forums, components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the IASC sub-working group on climate change and UN agencies. Consultations were in the form of virtual meetings, bilateral discussions, two open consultations for the whole humanitarian sector and an online questionnaire. The draft was also shared widely through the networks of various organizations, including the IASC.

Frequently asked questions

Who is this Charter for?

This Charter has been developed by and for humanitarian organisations.  Signatures will be accepted from not-for-profit organisations (whether they are Red Cross/Red Crescent, NGO, or inter-governmental) that provide humanitarian assistance and/or protection.  Signatures will also be accepted from not-for-profit networks, think tanks, consultancies or academic entities whose primary work is centered on humanitarian action.

Several states, local and regional governments, government agencies and departments (such as NDMAs), and private foundations have expressed their desire to support the Charter. Any such organization wishing to formally express this support may sign up as a Supporter and will be listed publicly on the Charter website. Support to the implementation of the Charter is critical in many ways. Technical and financial support are key to turning commitments into reality. Calls for ambitious action at all levels to reduce risks and address the causes and consequences of the climate and environmental crises are equally important. Similarly, the development of donor policies that align with the Charter is also welcome.

Is there a deadline for signing the Charter?

There is no set deadline for signing the Charter. The signing period is open-ended –organizations should sign up when they are ready.

What does my organization need to do to sign the Charter?

The Charter is not a legally binding document but a statement of commitment. Organizations adopting the Charter should be committed to addressing the climate and environment crises, both through their programmes and the way in which they work. Organizations will be expected to translate the commitments in the Charter into time-bound targets and action plans within a year.

What kind of targets does the Charter require humanitarian organizations to develop?

Organizations adopting the Charter should be committed to ensuring they have specific targets (these could be new, existing or a mixture of both) that demonstrate how changes are being implemented and that lead to real reductions in their environmental impacts. Each organization will have its own specific targets, reflecting its scale, capacities and mandate. These targets may take time to develop. Organizations do not need to finalize their targets before adopting the Charter; they merely need to commit to doing so within a year of signing it.

Targets should be informed by international standards and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, and be based on the latest scientific evidence. They may represent intermediate steps or long-term goals. See examples of suggested targets under Guidance.

What tools are available to help organizations develop targets and track progress?

In addition to the series of suggested targets, sharing tools and knowledge will be critical to the success of the Charter. Many organizations have been developing tools that will be valuable for fulfilling the Charter’s commitments. Other tools may need to be developed, especially in the area of carbon accounting. Many organizations have already committed to ensuring that existing tools are shared widely and to identifying potential gaps and ways to address them. See examples of tools and resources under Guidance.

Why did the ICRC and IFRC lead the Charter development and consultation process?

Addressing the climate and environment crises is a priority for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and has been for some time. At the 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2019, the ICRC, the IFRC and a number of National Societies committed not only to adapting their ways of working but also to developing a charter to support and promote greater climate action within the humanitarian community at large.

Is there a monitoring mechanism?

The IFRC and ICRC act as the repository for the Charter and maintain a database of the organizations that adopt it, but there will not be a formal external monitoring mechanism.Organizations themselves are expected to monitor and report on their own progress.