The purpose of the Commission was:

  • To study specific humanitarian issues that have been inadequately dealt with to date, or call for solutions in line with new realities
  • To identify opportunities for more effective action by the international community and to make practical, action-oriented proposals that promote the well-being of people;
  • To enhance public awareness of the conditions that create and perpetuate human suffering, and to strengthen efforts, at governmental and non-governmental level to bring about changes that will help make the world a more humane place,

The Work of the Commission was determined by the desire to be realistic, pragmatic and innovative. During its limited lifespan, the Commission focused on three broad areas of concern:

Humanitarian Norms in the context of armed conflicts. Although considerable progress has been made in developing and codifying international humanitarian law, flagrant disregard of humanitarian norms persists. This reality spells heightened dangers for the victims of armed conflicts, an increasing number of whom are civilians. The aim of the Commission, on the one hand, was to encourage actively adhesion by governments to existing international instruments and, on the other, to propose measures that deal with new problems arising out of contemporary armed conflicts.

Disasters, natural and man-made, are not new phenomenon, But their debilitating frequency and catastrophic consequences provoke pertinent questions as to the international community’s ability and Willingness to address the root causes of such calarinities. The new humanitarian crises demonstrate the necessity of new perspectives and approaches in translating the short-term relief efforts of today into long-term strategies that safeguard the Welfare of future generations. The factors which create disasters – and most cannot simply be attributed to the caprices of nature – are many and complex, The Commission, therefore, selected a number of inter-related issues that are central to disaster prevention and preparedness. Particularly concerned about the destruction of the earth’s resources, the Commission focused on the humanitarian aspects of problems such as desertification. deforestation, famine as well as such man-made disasters as nuclear and industrial accidents.

Vulnerable Groups is a term attributed to many who suffer deprivation by virtue of their status in society. However, given that the Commission’s work was limited in time and scope, it concentrated on the plight of only a few of the unprotected or vulnerable groups in specific situations of acute hardship. These include the stateless, the disappeared, refugees and displaced persons, indigenous populations, street children and the urban young. The Commission’s purpose was to study the problems unique to each group, the deprivation entailed, the lack of an adequate international response, and the practical measures which could be taken to lessen their hardship.

In addition to analysing and making recommendations on specific issues, sensitizing public opinion, and reminding governments of their humanitarian obligations, the Commission has prepared this Final Report. It reflects the views of its members expressed during eight plenary sessions held in Geneva, New York, Tunis, The Hague, Tokyo, Vienna, Stockholm and Amman, as well as in a number of Working Group meetings organized for in-depth discussions on specific issues. The Final Report has been released with the general approval of all Commissioners. Endorsement of each statement and proposal was, however, not sought on an individual basis. It is issued in the belief that it will facilitate international discussion and action without delay.

The Commission operated through a small secretariat in Geneva which co-ordinated research activities and serviced the work of the Commission. The reports on specific topics addressed by the Commission were formulated after in-depth study by the Commission Members. Working Groups, composed of Members with special interest or expertise in the subject, assisted by a group of recognized experts, were established to investigate different issues, The Working Groups collaborated closely through the secretariat with the relevant academic centres as well as governmental and non-governmental international bodies. Experts as well as representatives of the international bodies concerned were also invited, as appropriate, to participate in the deliberations of the Commission or the Working Groups.

This process ensured that the Commission’s activities did not duplicate the work of other organizations but rather complemented the on-going search for better and more effective solutions to humanitarian problems. Draft reports were then reviewed by all the Commission Members. When finalized, they were made public as Sectoral Reports prepared for the Commission,

Periodically, the Commission organized seminars, expert consultations, brain-storming sessions and public meetings to examine issues or to make its views known. This process also promoted a greater awareness and understanding of humanitarian questions.

The work of the Commission was funded by government contributions as well as non-governmental organizations and private sources.