The Volunteer Code of Conduct
All volunteers sign up to a code of conduct first agreed in the founding meeting of the White Helmets in 2014. This code ensures all work is conducted to the highest standards of independence, effectiveness and impact.
The main rules of conduct for the White Helmets are to fulfill duties to provide disaster and war response in Syria, to carry out search and rescue operations, and to save the maximum number of lives.
1. The human imperative of saving lives and rescue comes first
Our motive is saving the maximum number of civilian lives. The right to receive humanitarian assistance, and to offer it, is a fundamental humanitarian principle, which should be enjoyed by all Syrian civilians. In our capacity as White Helmets volunteers our obligation is to provide humanitarian assistance to all Syrians.
2. Search and rescue response is given to civilians regardless of the race of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of human need alone.
Civilian and human life is as precious in one part of a country as another. We work in all areas of the country we can access without fearing attacks or detainment.
3. Search and rescue missions are not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.
We will not tie the promise, delivery or distribution of assistance to any particular political or religious creed because our work comes from our humanitarian values and principles.
4. We endeavour not to act as instruments of any political party or agendas, which are not compatible with the missions of search and rescue of civilians from our people.
We will never knowingly – or through negligence – allow ourselves to be used to gather information of a political, military or economically sensitive nature for bodies or entities that may serve purposes other than those which are strictly humanitarian, for the purposes of saving civilian lives and the documentation of human rights abuses for the purposes of accountability.
We are ready to receive assistance and expertise, in order to carry out search and rescue operations, for purposes of professionalism and institutional exchange of knowledge and expertise.
We value and promote the voluntary giving of labour and finances by institutions, organisations and concerned individuals to support our work and recognise the independence of action promoted by such voluntary motivation. In order to protect our independence we avoid dependence upon a single funding source.
5. Individual Civil Defenders are held strictly accountable to the values of neutrality, impartiality, and humanity, and to the letter and spirit of this Code of Conduct and all White Helmet policies.
All volunteers are held to the highest standard of personal accountability. While the difficulties of operating in a conflict zone are understood volunteers are strictly prohibited, on penalty of expulsion, from:
- Engaging in embezzlement, corruption, dishonesty, or other breaches of integrity that could detract from the performance of White Helmets duties or harm its reputation and good standing with its volunteers, the communities it serves, and its donors
- Any other activity that could be injurious to the White Helmets reputation as a neutral, impartial, independent humanitarian organisation, or that contravenes the spirit of its values and this code of conduct
6. We respect all cultures and customs
We respect the culture, structures and customs of our Syrian people, and refrain from any action that is considered harmful to any component of the Syrian people.
7. We build local capacities
The Syrian people and our volunteers in particular possess great capacities. Where there are vulnerabilities, we strengthen these capacities through receiving technical and professional support from international partners.
8. We involve programme beneficiaries in the management of search and rescue
Disaster response assistance should never be imposed upon our volunteers or the Syrian people. Effective relief and lasting rehabilitation can best be achieved where Syrian civilians are involved in establishing needs, receiving professional and technical training programs and capacitation.
9. We are transparent in our responsibility towards donors
All our dealings with donors and beneficiaries are conducted with an attitude of openness and transparency. We report on the effectiveness and cost of our activities in an open manner. We work to the highest standards of professionalism in order to minimise the wasting of valuable resources.
10. In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we recognise civilian Syrians affected by the bombardment and the fighting as dignified humans
In our communications to audiences around the world, we portray an objective image of the situation of our people’s civilian victims that maintains their dignity. We cooperate and coordinate with local, regional and international media outlets who are covering the story of attacks against civilians.
11. We maintain and abide by international conventions and charters
We work to uphold international conventions and charters that safeguard and protect civilians. We are ready to integrate into any future Syria based on a consensual national agreement that ensures justice and accountability for all.