12. Blurred Boundaries: Militaries, Humanitarian Action and Neutrality


Learning outcome

Upon completion of this activity, students should gain a basic understanding of the intricacies involved in having humanitarian aid and/or assistance being delivered by military personnel.


Watch the video clip "Blurred Boundaries: Militaries, Humanitarian Action and Neutrality" and answer the following questions.


Should militaries be involved in providing humanitarian assistance in conflict zones? This was the question at the heart of a debate co-hosted by the ICRC and the Centre for Military and Security Law (CMSL) at the Australian National University in Canberra in November 2015. The debate was part of the ICRC’s research and debate cycle on Principles Guiding Humanitarian Action, a series of public events and experts’ meetings aimed at fostering a global discussion around neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.

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Question 11 pts

Professor William Maley, from the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, expresses six points in his opening statement. The fifth point he articulates is that “humanitarian assistance risks being seen by militaries through the lenses of their desired military and political outcomes.” Which renowned state official does Professor Maley quote as having stated in 2001 that, “NGOs are such a force-multiplier for us; such an important part of our combat team” in order to corroborate his argument?

Question 21 pts

Professor Maley’s sixth and final point in his opening statement is that “when militaries are parties to a conflict, their involvement in humanitarian assistance can expose civilian humanitarian actors to the risk of being viewed in the same light.” He then labels two fundamental principles of humanitarian action as being of “great protection” for civilian humanitarian actors when perceived as extant in their comportment. Which two principles does Professor Maley refer to?

Question 31 pts

When closing the debate, Vincent Bernard, the debate’s moderator and the Head of Law and Policy Forum at ICRC, speaks of an international legal mandate and obligation, stemming from the Geneva Conventions, for military forces to provide humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies. He forwards two hypothetical circumstances in which military personnel “must act”. Which, of the six hypothetical scenarios listed below, does Mr Bernard mention? (Select 2 answers)

Question 41 pts

In his closing remarks, Mr Bernard speaks of the ICRC’s views on whether militaries should be involved in providing humanitarian assistance in conflict zones. Going by Mr Bernard’s remarks, which of the following statements most closely reflects the ICRC’s views on this issue?

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