World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

15 April 1999


cf. WCC Press Update of 25 March 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 29 March 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 31 March 1999

The World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) today issued a joint statement on "The Protection of Humanitarian Principles in Kosovo Refugee Response". The statement was signed by WCC acting general secretary, Georges Lemopoulos; LWF acting general secretary, Agneta Ucko; CEC general secretary, Keith Clements and WARC general secretary, Milan Opocensky.

Text of the "Statement on the Protection of Humanitarian Principles in Kosovo Refugee Response":

"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."

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.