The Macalester Review


Humanitarian action aims to alleviate the humanitarian symptoms of crises, yet humanitarian ideals have been stretched in ways relief workers never expected. For one, the right of humanitarian intervention rests on the premise that war, whose nature provides the rationale for killing, may be labeled a humanitarian act if waged for humanitarian ends. Humanitarian relief organizations oppose the misleading and manipulative labeling of conflicts that contradict the fundamental rationale of humanitarian action—the alleviation of suffering. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the international community engaged in a dialogue that gave birth to the concept of the “Responsibility to Protect.” In this article, I identify the problematic implications of humanitarian intervention from a humanitarian actor’s perspective. RtoP, an emerging international norm, has the potential to remedy some of the contradictions inherent in humanitarian intervention. I argue that humanitarian actors can operate within the multi-dimensional paradigm of the RtoP doctrine in order to advance its goals and ultimately alleviate the most suffering.