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What is the most important humanitarian principle?

Let’s rejoin our conversation with Jeevi and Nazanin.
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So what is the most humanitarian– most important humanitarian principle for you? And you have to tell me why. That’s a great question. So I’ll maybe start by saying that I actually don’t love the term humanitarian principles because I think the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence while they are very important and have had a very large mark on the mainstream Western-based international humanitarian system, I don’t like that terminology because I don’t think that all humanitarian expressions fall within this set of principles or even strive to fall within this set of principles. So I’m trying to find the right word. I sometimes try calling them the HIIN principles for Humanity, Independence, Impartiality, and Neutrality.
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But I haven’t quite settled on the right terminology. So with that kind of caveat, I would say that to me of those four, the most important is humanity. Because I think that’s really an important reminder about why we do what we do and why we endeavour to express compassion for others within our own communities and also for communities that we are not a part of. So for me, humanity is really the ultimate core. I think all the other, of course, very, very important decisions and principles and approaches really are rooted in this idea of, how do we respond to people that are suffering?
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I totally agree with the idea of humanity at the core of humanitarianism because I see the humanity and its universality is explicit in different cultures and religions across the world. I can tell from my own Tamil society the idea and the concept humanity is enshrined into all Tamil text. And there are multiple interpretation of the concept humanity. And they are all embedded in ethical teachings, sacred texts, poems, and stories and pass through generation to generation. So humanity is the core of humanitarianism. But then I want to move beyond the [INAUDIBLE] tradition and talk about the principle of solidarity because solidarity means a lot to me for where I come from.
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And solidarity makes a lot of sense to me rather than neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

So far we have learnt that there are many principles that inform humanitarian action, but also that four core principles are considered essential to modern humanitarianism.

Let’s rejoin our conversation with Jeevi and Nazanin.

As Jeevi and Nazanin highlight in this video, the traditional ‘Dunantist’ (a term used to describe individuals or ideas inspired by Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross movement), perspective on humanitarian principles are being challenged.

Your task

Watch the video and, when you’re done, take a moment to read this article by Hugo Slim, who explains why the assumption that ‘neutrality’ is essential to humanitarian action should be questioned.

What is your position on this debate?

Discuss your response and the reasons for it in the comments.

Also spend some time responding to the posts of others, ensuring you do so in a curious, constructive and compassionate manner (the 3Cs Marcus talked about earlier).

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Introduction to Humanitarian Aid

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