International Review Series: Unpacking the principle of humanity - Tensions and implications

The principle of humanity is difficult to define in a single image, but this photo of an ICRC worker with a young refugee who had been reunited with his family in Mali in 2014, seems to capture the spirit of humanity - the notion of one person being their for another, providing a sense of hope and relief.    

The principle of humanity is difficult to define in a single image, but this photo of an ICRC worker with a young refugee who had been reunited with his family in Mali in 2014, seems to capture the spirit of humanity - the notion of one person being their for another, providing a sense of hope and relief.    

Humanity is at once the most universally and uncritically accepted humanitarian principle. It is not, however, without controversy.

This article, from the ICRC's academic journal, the International Review of the Red Cross, defines the principle of humanity and then explores its inherent tensions, related to universality and particularism, inclusion and exclusion, and equality and inequality.

The article concludes with a call to operationalize and concretize humanity through three sets of transformative practices and everyday actions. Together, these embody the relational nature of humanity, and suggest ways forward in reforming humanitarianism.

Follow this link to download the full article

About the author: Larissa Fast is a Science and Technology Policy Fellow (2014–2016) with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also author of Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). Go here  for more information about her work. Follow Larissa on Twitter: @aidindanger.