Humanitarians are not just going to conflict regions and areas affected by typhoons or earthquakes to provide aid to affected people. That’s only the first step. Once on the ground, they need to deal with much tougher dilemmas: How can one ethically persuade a political or military authority to give access to an affected area? When does working closely with a warring party or an immoral regime move from practical cooperation to complicity in human rights violations? Should one operate in camps for displaced people and refugees if these are effectively being run like prisoner camps instead? What is humanitarian neutrality? How can an agency be impartial when its movement is restricted?
It can be hard for humanitarians to live up to the principles of impartiality and independence, and focus on alleviating human suffering when many others may not share these views. Do humanitarian principles and ethical practice still have a place in humanitarian action, or are they overwhelmed by the power and realpolitik of others in armed conflicts and disasters?
In his new book ‘Humanitarian Ethics: A Guide to the Morality of Aid in War and Disaster’, Hugo Slim – Head of Policy at the ICRC – aims to answer these questions and enable humanitarian workers to develop a practical understanding of the principles that govern their profession.
Click here to watch the event streamed live online.