New Humanitarianism: Does it Provide a Moral Banner for the 21st Century


Fox, Fiona. 2001. "New Humanitarianism: Does it Provide a Moral Banner for the 21st Century?" Disasters 25 (4): 275-289.

Author: Fiona Fox


There is a 'new humanitarianism' for the new millennium. It is 'principled', 'human-rights based' and politically sensitive. Above all it is new. It marks a break from the past and a rejection of the traditional principles that guided humanitarianism through the last century. New humanitarians reject the political naivety of the past, assess the long-term political impact of relief and are prepared to see humanitarian aid used as a tool to achieve human rights and political goals. New Humanitarianism is compelling, in tune with our times and offers a new moral banner for humanitarians to cling to as we enter the new millennium. Or does it? After outlining the key elements of new humanitarianism, including the human rights approach and developmental relief, the paper spells out some of the dangers. The author claims that new humanitarianism results in an overt politicisation of aid in which agencies themselves use relief as a tool to achieve wider political goals. The paper shows how this approach has spawned a new conditionality which allowsfor aid to be withheld and has produced a moral hierarchy of victims in which some are more deserving than others. The paper concludes with a plea for a revival of the principle of universalism as the first step to a new set of principles.

Topics: Development, Humanitarian Assistance, Rights, Human Rights

Year: 2001

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