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Global Forum Briefing Paper 5: Good humanitarian action is apolitical and adheres to international law and the humanitarian principles

Global Forum Briefing Paper 5


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Development & humanitarian aid, International law, Organisational , Organisational Learning and Change, System-wide performance
Author(s):Knox-Clarke, P. and Obrecht, A., with Warner, A.
Date published:2015


This paper looks at the obstacles to humanitarian action being apolitical and adhering to international law and the humanitarian principles and provides recommendations synthesised from submitted proposition papers. It is one of the briefing papers prepared for the Global Forum taking place in New York on 4-5 June 2015.


The humanitarian principles are at the heart of humanitarian action, providing a normative basis that both guides and justifies humanitarian assistance. This justification has both moral and legal resonance, particularly in situations of armed conflict, where scholars agree humanitarian action is legally grounded in conventional IHL, international customary law and some principles of law. Where humanitarian actors fail to uphold these principles, they lose moral authority and can lose legal justification for their activities. This can jeopardise access and provision of aid to people in need. The failure of states and other actors to respect international law (particularly IHL, international refugee law and international human rights law) can create or exacerbate situations where humanitarian assistance is required and can also make it extremely difficult to provide assistance.


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