The Humanitarian Assistance Dilemma as the Challenge of Traditional Humanitarian Principles

Chin Ruamps*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Traditional humanitarian principles have their focus on humanity, independence, impartiality and neutrality. While principles of humanity and independence remain the least controversial traditional humanitarian principles, principles of impartiality and neutrality have attracted much criticism. In brief, while the principle of impartiality demands that humanitarian agencies provide aid according to need and without discrimination, the principle of neutrality requests that humanitarian agencies not take sides in conflicts. However, the principle of impartiality often benefits not only the genuinely affected populations but also armed combatants and belligerents. Examples like this were found in the case of Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand in the late 1970s. On the other hand, the principle of neutrality enables repressors to continue to cause harm through staying neutral, making no judgements and remaining silent onrepressors’mass abuse of victims, as like the example of the Biafra War (the Nigerian Civil War) in the late 1960s (Terry, 2002). The humanitarian assistance dilemma thus arises when confront with these paradoxical contradictions. The aim of this paper is twofold: first,
to delineate the humanitarian assistance dilemma resulting from following the traditional humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality; second, to suggest a modified set of humanitarian principles that help humanitarian agencies navigate their positions when confronting the humanitarian assistance dilemma.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventWorld Conference on Humanitarian Studies: New Realities of Politics and Humanitarianism: Between Solidarity and Abandonment - Hybrid – Paris, France and Online, WWW
Duration: 3 Nov 20218 Dec 2021
Conference number: 6


ConferenceWorld Conference on Humanitarian Studies
LocationHybrid – Paris, France and Online

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