Institutional History

White Helmets has its origins in 1994, in the Commission against Hunger and Poverty, an international civil body created to combat social problems.

This body marked the beginning of the participation of developing countries in the deliverance of international humanitarian assistance, which until then had been reserved for donor countries, and introduced the utilization of volunteers as a specialized professional corps tool.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly adopted and approved the Commission as an Initiative, under the White Helmets denomination, and incorporated it into its agenda, namely the response to man-made or natural disasters, conflicts and emergency situations of any kind.

Thus, the White Helmets Commission extended its reach to other assistance aspects included in the concept of complex humanitarian emergency. It embraced the purpose of supporting UN activities within the sphere of emergency humanitarian assistance and of rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in times of transition. Furthermore, it was established that the Commission would act pursuant to the guidelines of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs —OCHA— since 1998) and work in coordination with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Program, which deploys civilian personnel in missions around the world.

Since then, the UN General Assembly has renewed its support for the Initiative every three years, highlighting the importance of the Argentine experience in addressing humanitarian crises through the organization of volunteer corps. The most recent expression of support was given at the 70th UN General Assembly, in 2015.

At a regional level, in 1995, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the White Helmets Initiative, thus contributing to its consolidation. It subsequently approved resolutions that gave rise to a system of support for the activities carried out by the White Helmets in the Americas, including a Special White Helmets Fund. The OAS ratifies the Initiative every year.

In 1999, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) —the platform of the United Nations system promoting relations and synergies for coordination of disaster reduction activities— was added to the work carried out by the Commission together with OCHA and UNV.

In 2000, White Helmets became a body reporting to the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship and, as a result, it incorporated a group of career diplomats into its personnel structure.

As of 2003, the working structure of the Initiative was reformulated, thus enabling horizontal assistance in situations of crisis or socio-natural emergency (that is to say, beyond natural disasters) and including different types of situations of social deterioration or collapse.

In 2007, with a view to guaranteeing that disaster risk reduction is made a national priority and is provided with a solid institutional basis for its enforcement, the Argentine Republic created the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (PNRD in the Spanish acronym), coordinated by the White Helmets Commission. It should be noted that the PNRD was implemented in accordance with ISDR guidelines.

The continuity of the work with the UN enabled the consolidation of White Helmets throughout the years. A number of the world body resolutions and decisions recognized the important role of the White Helmets Initiative not only regarding humanitarian assistance, but also with respect to the development of mechanisms that facilitate the local management of emergencies with the participation of the affected communities.