There is currently considerable interest in improving the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance through the promotion of principles of good practice and codes of conduct. This paper places these initiatives, and particularly the Code of Conduct or the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, in the context of endeavours within the humanitarian sector to address the underlying values that effectively govern the behaviour of practitioners. The paper interprets this as the development of organisational ethical ethos and demonstrates that creating an ethos requires the convergence of two separate ethical systems, the practitioners and the organisations, and how this is best achieved through dialogue and discussion. The paper concludes by affirming the initiative to improve practice by establishing universally observed ethical standards but that to be successful these standards in the form of the Code of Conduct must be ‘owned’ equally by the agency and its personnel.
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