Humanitarian action: constructing legitimacy
30-06-2001 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 842, by André Pasquier
Abstract of the article " Action humanitaire: une légitimité en question ? "
With the concept of humanitarian action becoming disproportionately vast and politicized, scaled down or diluted, the question is to what extent it can, without seeing its own legitimacy seriously challenged, fill the vacuum created by the lack of a consistent and predictable worldwide political system. Between war and peace, this question casts its shadow on the broader horizon of a world in search of a new political order, one that would be better able to reconcile humanitarian requirements and political interests, State sovereignty and respect for the fundamental rights of the individual. The author looks for answers in the vast experience accumulated over the years by the ICRC whose legitimacy in providing humanitarian assistance and protection to war victims has traditionally been upheld by three elements. The first of these is a set of principles whose raison d’être is to mark out and define the humanitarian space within which it operates ; the second is a legal framework, made up today of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977, which enjoy universal acceptance ; and the third is the product of time, the legitimacy acquired through activities conducted in the long term and through constant practice.