Integration and coherence: is there a future for independent humanitarian action? A legal inquiry into the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection during armed conflict today

Luz Gómez-Saavedra


This article challenges, from a legal perspective, the validity of independent humanitarian action (HA) during armed conflict in the face of the United Nations integration and coherence doctrine. The traditional legal foundations of humanitarian action in war are reviewed. In the last decades the modus operandi of actors in armed conflict and their interpretation of international law has evolved and in this framework International Human Rights Law (IHRL) has become the main legal resort to legitimise humanitarian intervention. Confusion between military, political and humanitarian involvement in conflicts has eroded the legal principles of independent HA in favour of opportunities for general law enforcement and IHRL protection and promotion. This paper concludes that there are legal grounds to advocate for independent HA, in order to maintain the humanitarian imperative and the interests of the victims of war, as a valid action in itself without attaching HA to objectives of global peace, security and human rights.

Published online: 11 December 2017


conflicts; international human rights law; humanitarian action; actors

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