Connecting with the past : The Fundamental Principles in Critical Historical Perspective

On 16 and 17 September 2015, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the University of Exeter and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, held a two-day historical symposium to discuss the humanitarian fundamental principles in critical historical perspective. The conference gathered approximately 50 participants including academics, historians and senior humanitarian practitioners from across the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian organisations.

DOWNLOAD THE CONFERENCE REPORT HERE. Please note, this report was updated on 15 Jan 2016 to correct an error on p6.

The conference was divided into 5 panels, covering 5 historical periods:

1. The Birth of Modern Humanitarianism, 1860s to First World War
2. Consolidation and Expansion, from First World War to Second World War
3. New Challenges: Decolonisation and the Cold War
4. A “Golden Age”? The 1980s and the 1990s
5. 9/11 and its Aftermath: Operating in a Newly Constrained Environment

You can download the symposium programme here: Programme with speaker abstracts and participant bios, and watch the video on ‘History and Humanitarianism: Understanding humanitarian action – past, present and future’ on YouTube.

The symposium also included an engaging public event,Stubborn realities, shared humanity: History in the service of humanitarian action” (full video recording below).

GALLERY OF IMAGES FROM THE EXCELLENT ICRC ARCHIVES, GENEVA, RELATING TO THE CONFERENCE. Further details and full photo credits can be downloaded hereNOTE: Do not use images without the express permission of the International Committee of the Red Cross Archives, photolibrary(at)