Empathy and applying the principle of empowerment seem to be good bases, although we must obviously also be guided by a principle of efficiency, which means trying to do the best in terms of alleviation of suffering with the limited resources that are available to us. This implies that we have to get a good understanding of the social and environmental systems that we work in, in order to kind of optimize our action and do no harm. A participatory appoach seems to be a good starting point to dive into the reasonings of our beneficiaries, but there are obvious limits to that: we want to be innovative, as was said before, so we have to bring some external knowledge into our work and transmit it through awareness raising; and there are things that we cannot support, e.g. if a group of displaced people would like to get arms to reconquer the land they were driven from.
Having said that, like Kirsten, I haven’t really worked in humanitarian settings myself. My experience is rather in DRR in development settings.