How can art help us understand Humanitarian Principles? “Human- itarian Principles. Here and Now” is a contemporary art exhibition produced by the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, in conversation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. The four humanitarian principles – Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality and Independence – have been portrayed in films and photographs by renowned artists hoping to inspire those of us who live in peaceful countries to reflect and engage with these important concepts.
Together with ICRC delegation in Japan and other partners – the Japanese Red Cross Society, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in Japan and the Institut Français de Recherche sur le Japon at Maison Franco-Japonaise (IFRJ-MFJ) – the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan will bring the exhibition to the Ebisu area of Tokyo during the month of October 2021.

Humanitarian crises around the world make the headlines everyday. The images associated to these tragedies are often related to tears, suffering, hunger, desperation, loneliness, separation, desolation, etc. Sometimes, we feel helpless or overwhelmed by all these images of crises, violence, armed conflicts, natural disasters and, of course, pandemics.

The exhibition “Humanitarian Principles. Here and Now” is a response to these feelings. Through the works of 17 Swiss and international art- ists and photographers, it invites visitors to reflect on the principles underlying humanitarian action, their meaning across contexts and their relevance in our time. Through this, we wish to offer an opportu- nity to the people in Japan to engage collectively with the fundamental principles of humanitarian action.

Dialogues on Humanity
The purpose of this contemporary art installation is to promote visitors’ mindful engagement with art.
Audiences are encouraged to formulate their own interpretations and to focus on their emotions while critically reflecting on the Humanitarian Principles and their application to daily life. As Humanitarian Principles. Here and Now is intended for audience participation, the public is invited to actively “join in the conversation” and share their personal interpretations and experience. #DialoguesOnHumanity, an integral component of the project, is a platform for both on-site and on-line discussion and debate.
Inspired by new and innovative angles, we invite you to engage, reflect and exchange.


The Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement did not come into being as abstract principles. They originate in the real actions of caring people who spontaneously came to the aid of the wounded and dying on the battlefield of Solferino in 1859. In the aftermath, efforts were made to identify general concepts and guiding principles that could serve as a basis for future humanitarian action. A first attempt to formulate them can be found in Henry Dunant’s A Memory of Solferino as early as 1862.
The same applies to the Humanitarian Principles. They are now crucial for the UN, its agencies and all states to establish and maintain access to civilian populations affected by natural disaster, armed conflict, or other complex emergency situations to address human suffering, wherever found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings in the framework of those principles.


The four Humanitarian Principles HumanityNeutralityImpartiality and Independence are the compass to guide any action that intends to provide aid and relief to millions of affected people. These principles, and the values that they entail, are the foundations and objectives of humanitarian action, and what gives it its universal claim.

Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.

Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinions.

Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Humanitarian action must be autonomous from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented.