The Humanitarian Principles in Historical and Legal Perspective

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 10:00to11:30
Room 609, New Chancellor Day Hall

With Professor Marina Sharpe, Assistant Professor of International Law in the International Studies programme at Royal Military College Saint-Jean and former Visiting Fellow at the CHRLP.


Recent events around the world--including disasters linked to climate change, the pandemic and new and ongoing armed conflict--have pushed the need for and complexity of humanitarian action to unprecedented levels. The guidance of, and operational effectiveness fostered by, the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are thus as critical as ever. Humanitarian actors broadly agree on what the humanitarian principles are, what each one means and their utility in responses to armed conflict and disasters. But this consensus obscures the principles’ origins and their legal character. In this talk, Marina Sharpe tells the story of how the humanitarian principles diffused from the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to NGOs and the UN, a history that also sheds light on the principles’ inherently relative legal character.

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