Humanitarianism is at once a broad dedication to and belief in the fundamental value of human life. Though lacking an agreed definition, this central ethics of humanitarianism crosses cultures and history. Humanitarianism is also a more specific reference to the (international/Western) crisis response that has evolved from the founding of the Red Cross and the first Geneva Convention over 150 years ago. As a systemic response to crisis, humanitarianism involves addressing the needs of people affected by conflict, natural disaster, epidemic and famine. In these crises, the focus of humanitarianism is, to varying degrees, placed upon basic or immediate needs of assistance and protection, as distinct from (though increasingly linked to) work more directly aimed at development, peace building, rule of law, etc.
Humanitarian workers hugging after being released
Photo: Albert González Farran/UNAMID

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