“Do No Harm” as a Code of Action

Do No Harm (DNH) is an ethical principle as well as a decision-making approach, which requires humanitarian agencies and their individual representatives to try to minimize the “harm” they may be doing while providing assistance. It is understood that this harm is most often unintentional. Derived originally from medical ethics, DNH is ultimately about decision making in complex environments. Complex environments are characterized by constant change, complexity, and unpredictability. These complex environments may include large-scale emergencies such as tsunamis, violent uprisings, or armed conflicts.

Beginning in the early 1990s, a number of donor agencies, United Nations organizations, and international and local nongovernmental organizations(NGOs) collaborated through the Local Capacities for Peace Project (LCPP) to learn more about how aid that is given in conflict settings interacts with ...

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