"Humanitarian Principles. Here and Now”: Understanding humanitarian principles and their significance in Bangladesh

Press release, 25.01.2022

Dhaka (Embassy of Switzerland / ICRC / Liberation War Museum) – Humanitarian crises cause human suffering around the world. They make people feel overwhelmed and helpless, even if they are not directly affected. But how can people respond to these crises and help those in despair collectively or individually? The contemporary art installation and exhibition “Humanitarian Principles. Here and Now” responds to these human and personal emotions and quests. With carefully selected photos and videos, the exhibition aims to give the visitors a better understanding and a deeper insight into the significance that humanitarian principles represent in everyday lives and their impact in the local context. It further creates a space to discuss and share views on Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality and Independence - four key humanitarian principles.

The Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh have jointly brought this exhibition to Dhaka, in collaboration with the Photo Elysée Museum of Lausanne, Switzerland. The Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, H.E. Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, MP, inaugurated the exhibition today at the Liberation War Museum. The Hon’ble State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, H.E. Dr. Md. Enamur Rahman, MP, attended the ceremony as a Special Guest.

“Humanitarian principles are close to the heart of the Swiss people, and in the early 1970s these quintessential values laid the foundation on which our partnership with Bangladesh has developed,” said H.E. Ms. Nathalie Chuard, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh. “This exhibition, therefore, is very special for us as we jointly reflect on these principles at a time when Switzerland and Bangladesh are celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations,” she added.

“The ICRC was present in Bangladesh during the 1971 War. Based on the humanitarian principles, we provided protection and assistance to hundreds of thousands of affected people,” said Ms. Katja Lorenz, Head of the ICRC delegation in Bangladesh. “Today, we continue helping people affected by violence. Among other activities, we visit detainees, we support physical rehabilitation services, we promote International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Together with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), we strive to re-establish family links where contacts between relatives have been interrupted for different reasons, and to reunite missing people with their families. In the Cox’s Bazar region, we support Bangladeshi communities living near the camps,” she mentioned.

“Humanitarian Principles. Here and Now” contains photographs and films through which artists share their vision of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence and examine the impact of humanitarian principles from a fresh, local and contemporary perspective. The photos in display also provide a retrospective and information about the ICRC’s role and activities in Bangladesh during the 1971 War and the last 50 years since, along with Switzerland’s humanitarian engagement in Bangladesh over the last five decades. Furthermore, 10 original short films from the lenses of 10 Swiss photographers reflecting where they see humanitarian principles at play in their everyday lives are also shown, alongside six award-winning photographs. 

This exhibition invites visitors to critically reflect on humanitarian principles and their significance and share their personal thoughts and experiences on an interactive digital dialogue platform. The exhibition is available in both English and Bengali languages and welcomes all visitors, specifically school and university students, at the Liberation War Museum’s top-floor exhibition space. It is open for the public from 25 January to 24 February 2022 (10 am - 5 pm), except Sundays.