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Humanity: Our Priority Now and Always

  • Cornelio Sommaruga


Thomas Weiss oversimplifies when he identifies the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the classicist position of nonconfrontation. The ICRC defines humanitarian action to include advocacy through public and private channels to protect individuals and communities against violations of international humanitarian law. Weiss rightly points out the difficulty of making belligerents, or “unprincipled actors,” understand the value of nonpartisan and impartial action.

Still, the ICRC remains committed to finding new language for communicating the principles of humanitarian action and new techniques of negotiation. In this regard the ICRC is classicist. But this classicism places the ICRC on the side of the solidarists in defending the interests of individuals and communities in distress, and on the side of the maximalists in its advocacy of international humanitarian law.



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1 Report on the Second Wolfsberg Humanitarian Forum, 5–7 June 1998 (Geneva: ICRC, 1998).

2 Moore, Jonathan, ed., Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998).

3 Report on the Second Wolfsberg Humanitarian Forum, p. 8.

4 See Harroff-Tavel, Marion, “Promoting Norms to Limit Violence in Crisis Situations: Challenges, Strategies and Alliances,” International Review of the Red Cross, no. 322 (March 1998), pp. 520.

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Humanity: Our Priority Now and Always

  • Cornelio Sommaruga


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