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New humanitarian principles for a changing world

For more than 150 years, the international community’s assistance to those affected by war, civil strife and natural disasters has been guided by four clear and succinct principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.

The humanitarian environment has changed significantly in recent years, largely as a result of dramatic increases in refugees and the social, political, economic and environmental impacts of climate change. As a consequence, the principles that underlie and motivate humanitarian responses need to be revised.

This paper proposes four new principles that would better direct humanitarian action in the current environment: equity, solidarity, compassion and diversity.

"It is entirely expected that these four new principles will be contested and further alternatives will be suggested. Such a debate would be welcomed."

Prof Matthew Clarke

This paper discusses the deepening complexity of modern humanitarian emergencies and resulting declining suitability of each of the four original principles, before considering the four new suggested principles.

This is Paper 001 of The Humanitarian Leader: A Working Paper Series.

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  • Paper 001 | Vale the Humanitarian Principles