chapter
Introduction
ByJenny H Peterson
Pages 10

Humanitarianism is a topic debated in many diverse circles. Legal scholars and jurists have produced a wealth of material which explores whether armed humanitarian interventions are in line with international law and whether attacks on civilians or non-military targets breach international humanitarian law. Jurists draft laws protecting those displaced by war and disaster, and contribute to the formation of international treaties that will hold those accused of crimes against humanity to account in forums such as the International Criminal Court. Political scientists explore the impact of humanitarian action on both wider geo-political trends and local political dynamics, whilst also analysing humanitarian need as a motivating or causal factor in the political choices taken by actors. Scholars of philosophy grapple with the ethics of providing (or not providing) aid to those in need and, in doing so, confront age-old moral puzzles such as ‘do the ends justify the means?’. In the fi elds of medicine and public health, researchers seek out the best ways to bring medical care and preventative health programming to populations with unique needs in often extreme environments with limited resources. The list goes on – in the fi elds of economics, communications, engineering, religion, anthropology and many others, one will fi nd intense debates over the scale and nature of humanitarian action.