Responding to Humanitarian Crisis

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) is responsible for the monitoring, development and coordination, in collaboration with other government departments, of Canadian foreign policy relating to humanitarian affairs. This applies to both conflicts and natural disasters and includes responsibility for coordinating the Government of Canada’s response to natural disasters abroad where a whole-or-government response is required. Furthermore, START provides policy advice on humanitarian affairs; reflects on lessons identified from humanitarian crisis responses; and promotes humanitarian principles in numerous international fora. START thereby ensures that Canada maintains a sophisticated and coherent inter-departmental approach to humanitarian emergencies.

START is committed to enhancing the Government of Canada’s capacity to provide humanitarian policy leadership that will enable it to:

  • Monitor international humanitarian issues by working with other government departments, the international community and civil society groups;
  • Address gaps in humanitarian response by providing strategic policy advice on key humanitarian issues, including: building capacity for humanitarian crises response; developing Canadian and international guidelines for civilian-military coordination; and ensuring the physical and legal protection of civilians in armed conflict; and
  • Promote humanitarian principles in such areas as: the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the search for durable solutions to displacement; the safety and security of humanitarian workers; international humanitarian law; and sexual and gender-based violence in crisis context.

Humanitarian Actions

Humanitarian action aims to save lives, reduce suffering, and facilitate the return of people to normal life and livelihoods as soon as possible. These actions are guided by four main principles:

  • Neutrality: Humanitarian aid is provided in a way that does not favour any side to a conflict.  Neutrality towards the parties
  • Impartiality: Aid is provided based solely on need, with no discrimination among affected populations.
  • Humanity: Saving lives and alleviating suffering wherever it is found.
  • Independence: Humanitarian action is autonomous of political, economic, military and other objectives

Canada seeks to support these principles when responding to complex emergencies and natural disasters. Canada’s support for humanitarian action is grounded in our obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee laws and principles; a desire to support timely, effective and efficient risk reduction, conflict prevention and emergency response efforts; and an interest in ensuring responses by humanitarian actors achieve results by being timely, coordinated and accountable.

Canadian humanitarian action is also a reflection of our country’s core values. In addition to efforts by federal government departments, other sectors of Canadian society have also shown their solidarity with people in dire circumstances abroad, whose lives have been disrupted by political, economic and social stresses resulting from natural disasters or armed conflict.  Provinces and territories, private and voluntary sectors, and individual Canadians have often shown, through generous financial and material support, their desire to assist. 

Other areas of interest