Beyond neutrality: alternative forms of humanitarian action (ODI Event 1st Dec)

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Humanitarian action during 2022 has again raised questions about aid actors remaining neutral in conflicts involving repressive regimes and the legitimacy of aid actors that take sides.

In Ukraine, thousands of new local aid groups are providing emergency relief, rescue and civil defence. Their efforts and motivations – political, partisan and humanitarian – have been widely lauded. Meanwhile some international organisations have faced a backlash for their neutral stance and engagement with Russian authorities. International organisations in Myanmar have been condemned for providing aid through the military junta, with growing calls to instead support local humanitarian efforts that operate in opposition to the military regime.

These issues are not new. Many argue that it is immoral to remain neutral in the face of war crimes, others suggest that the principle of neutrality privileges foreigners over national actors. Humanitarian principles are also questioned by more activist or rights-based actors who are inspired by social injustice. So, are we seeing growing support and acceptance for alternative forms of humanitarian action motivated by a different set of principles, such as solidarity, resistance or social justice?


  • Adelina Kamal

    Adelina Kamal

    Associate Senior Fellow, ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute


  • Farouq Habib

    Farouq Habib

    Deputy General Manager for External Affairs, The White Helmets


  • Fiona Terry, ICRC

    Fiona Terry

    Head of the Centre for Operational Research and Experience, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

  • Tetian Stawnychy

    Tetiana Stawnychy

    President, Caritas Ukraine


  • Sorcha O'Callaghan, Director, Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI

    Sorcha O'Callaghan (chair)

    Director, Humanitarian Policy Group



Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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