Why should we be concerned about the issue of legitimacy in humanitarian action? After all, nothing could be more straightforward than the idea of my wanting to help someone in distress purely on the basis of our shared humanity; the issue of legitimacy would hardly seem to arise. But how is the legitimacy of my action aff ected if I am perceived to have an agenda other than a purely humanitarian one, whether by my intended benefi ciary or by an interested third party – for example their opponent in an armed confl ict? Do I need to possess a minimum degree of capability and competence for my intervention to be legitimate – what happens if I intervene badly and make matters worse? Does the fact that I work for an organisation with an avowedly humanitarian purpose make a diff erence – does it bestow legitimacy of itself and could my action be legitimate even if I worked for someone else: for example a for-profi t organisation or the military?