Relief agencies and moral standing in war: principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and solidarity

The article explores the moral difficulties for international humanitarian workers operating as third parties in the midst of war. The main part examines current usage of the terms `humanity', `neutrality', `impartiality', and `solidarity' as they are used in the discourse of humanitarian operations. The article then considers the psychological implications for relief workers of operating as non-combatant third parties in war. Finally, the article recognises that a range of different positions is both inevitable and desirable in a given conflict, but concludes by emphasising the responsibility of any third-party relief organisation to be transparent in its position and to preserve rather than distort traditional humanitarian principles and language. It ends by recommending concerted support for international humanitarian law and its possible reform as the best way to focus the current debate about the place of humanitarianism in war. This article is freely available as a chapter in Development, Women and War: Feminist Perspectives