This paper focuses on one dimension of new kinds of wars, namely the shifting relationship between violence and humanitarian action. The author suggests that since humanitarianism is founded in an idea of being intrinsically and essentially benevolent, humanitarian organizations’ real and imagined relationship with violence is critical for their self-understanding and wider legitimization in society, and hence worthy of in-depth consideration. To shed light on this issue the author discusses three dissimilar and conflicting perspectives, which together illustrate some of the ambiguity and complexity that exists and which also reflect the historical and analytical developments that have occurred as a result of concrete experiences with humanitarian operations in conflict zones in different parts of the world.
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