Humanitarian Diplomacy

  • Elise RousseauEmail author
  • Achille Sommo Pende
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


The chapter starts by defining “humanitarian diplomacy” as the set of activities undertaken by various actors with governments, (para)military organizations, or personalities in order to intervene or push intervention in a context where humanity is in danger. The “imperative of humanity,” which is the recognition that the other—whoever s/he may be—is a human being whose dignity deserves to be protected, is then presented as the foundation of humanitarian diplomacy. More precisely, we show how this imperative relies on a range of principles that may be found in the instruments of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The chapter ends with a thorough presentation of the main actors of humanitarian diplomacy and their practices. We start by describing the particular position of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and then we turn to NGOs, states, and international organizations. We show that while most of these actors implement humanitarian diplomacy principles and actions on a daily basis, without even being aware of it, others, such as the ICRC, are at the forefront of this field and even offer positions of “humanitarian diplomats.”


  1. Bettati, Mario, “Du droit d’ingérence à la responsabilité de protéger,” Outre-terre, 20 (3), 2007: 381–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brauman, Rony, Humanitaire, diplomatie et droits de l’homme, Paris, Éditions du Cygne, 2009.Google Scholar
  3. Brysk, Alison, Global Good Samaritans: Human Rights as Foreign Policy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  4. Calhoun, Craig, “The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Global (Dis)order,” in Didier Fassin, Mariella Pandolfi (eds.), Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Humanitarian Interventions, New York (NY), Zone Books, 2010, pp. 29–58.Google Scholar
  5. Davutoglu, Ahmet, “Turkey’s Humanitarian Diplomacy: Objectives, Challenges and Prospects,” Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, 41 (6), 2013: 865–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dunant, Henry, Un souvenir de Solferino, Genève, Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, [1862] 1990.Google Scholar
  7. Friman, H. Richard (ed.), The Politics of Leverage in International Relations. Name, Shame, and Sanctions, New York (NY), Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.Google Scholar
  8. Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., Making Human Rights a Reality, Princeton (NJ), Princeton University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  9. Harroff-Tavel, Marion, “La diplomatie humanitaire du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge,” Relations internationales, 121 (5), 2005: 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Keck, Margaret E., Sikkink, Kathryn, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Ithaca (NY), Cornell University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  11. Maillard, Denis, “1968–2008: le Biafra ou le sens de l’humanitaire,” Humanitaire, 18, 2008,, accessed 24 February 2017.
  12. Minear, Larry, Smith, Hazel, “Introduction,” in Larry Minear, Hazel Smith (ed.), Humanitarian Diplomacy: Practitioners and Their Craft, New York (NY), United Nations University Press, 2007, pp. 1–4.Google Scholar
  13. ORSAM, “Symposium Japan-Turkey: Dialogue on Global Affairs,” Meeting Evaluation, 8 August 2016.Google Scholar
  14. Risse, Thomas, Sikkink, Kathryn, “The Socialization of International Human Rights Norms into Domestic Practices: Introduction,” in Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp, Kathryn Sikkink (eds.), The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 1–38.Google Scholar
  15. Ryfman, Philippe, “L’action humanitaire non gouvernementale: une diplomatie alternative?” Politique étrangère, 3, 2010: 565–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sikkink, Kathryn, “The Power of Principled Ideas: Human Rights Policies in the United States and Western Europe,” in Judith Goldstein, Robert O. Keohane (eds.), Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change, Ithaca (NY), Cornell University Press, 1993, pp. 139–170.Google Scholar
  17. Smith, Hazel, “Humanitarian Diplomacy: Theory and Practice,” in Larry Minear, Hazel Smith (eds.), Humanitarian Diplomacy: Practitioners and Their Craft, Tokyo, New York, and Paris, United Nations University Press, 2007, pp. 36–62.Google Scholar
  18. Veuthey, Michel, “Humanitarian Diplomacy: Saving It When It Is Most Needed,” in Alexandre Vautravers, Yivita Fox (ed.), Humanitarian Space and the International Community: 16th Humanitarian Conference, Geneva, Webster University, 2012, pp. 195–209.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NamurNamurBelgium

Personalised recommendations