Developing a United Nations Capacity for Humanitarian Support Operations

  • James O. C. Jonah
Part of the Issues in Peacekeeping and Peacemaking book series (IPP)


The principle of humanity is a long-standing principle of international relations and international law. It has been a central tenet of the UN as well as of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, and it received authoritative reaffirmation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as early as 1949.1 As it has been codified in international practice, the principle of humanity demands that peoples shall be treated humanely in all circumstances. It requires that everything possible be done to prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health and to assure respect for the individual.2 The dictates of humanity should be the essential starting point in any consideration of the development of a UN capacity for humanitarian support operations. The UN is under a moral and legal duty to defend, uphold and apply the principle of humanity wherever and whenever possible.


International Community Security Council International Peace Security Council Resolution Host Government 
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  1. 2.
    Jean Pictet, ‘Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross’ (Geneva: Henry Dunant Institute, 1979), pp. 18–27.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    B.G. Ramcharan, The Concept and Present Status of International Protection of Human Rights (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1989), p. 37.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Peter Macalister-Smith, The Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985).Google Scholar

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© International Peace Academy 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • James O. C. Jonah

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