16 September 2015 18:00 - 19:30

Stubborn realities, shared humanity: History in the service of humanitarian action

About the event


This livestreamed public event, held on 16 September gathered internationally recognized historians, academics and senior humanitarian practitioners to discuss the doctrine of humanitarian principles in critical historical perspective. It was the public segment of a two-day historical symposium jointly organized by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the University of Exeter and the ICRC. The event is inscribed in the Research and debate cycle on principles guiding humanitarian action.

The year 2015 represents a major anniversary for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement: 50 years ago, its "Fundamental Principles" have been proclaimed at its XXth International Conference  in Vienna. The aim of this conference was to reflect on how these principles influenced – and were influenced by − the broader humanitarian sector. What can be learnt about the Principles from the rich history of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the wider humanitarian sector, that may in turn provide insights into current realities and act as a guide for the future?

The panelists discussed the relevance, influence and challenges of the humanitarian principles in three different historical periods: (1) From the Birth of Humanitarianism to the World Wars (c. 1860-1945), (2) Decolonisation and the Cold War (1945-1989) and (3) The Era of "Liberal Interventionism" (1990's) to today.


  • Sir Michael Aaronson , Professorial Research Fellow, University of Surrey
  • Jane Cocking, Humanitarian Director, OXFAM UK
  • Irène Herrmann, Associate Professor of Swiss Transnational History, University of Geneva
  • Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC
  • Andrew Thompson, Professor of Modern History, University of Exeter



  • Vincent Bernard, Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, ICRC

Date & Time

16 September 2015 18:00 - 19:30

Venue address

Avenue de la Paix 19, Genève