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Keywords:

  • humanitarian system;
  • humanitarian principles;
  • Relief-peace linkages;
  • relief-development linkages;
  • war;
  • disabled;
  • conflict;
  • aid policy

Prompted by the calls in recent years to link relief practice to peace-building, development, or both, several conferences and papers have recently mounted a strong critique, seeing these ‘broadenings’ of relief as ‘eroding’ or ‘corrupting’ core humanitarian principles and playing into neo-isolationist agendas to slash humanitarianism. This paper argues that whereas these critiques have important goals in mind when they encourage a concentration on the basics of relief, there has been a loss of subtlety in the ensuing debate. Considering each element of the debate in turn, the paper argues that there is more common ground between ‘new’ and ‘old’, ‘broadened’ and ‘basics’ relief than at first appears. In concluding, it is argued that further research on key questions, and an openness to hear all perspectives will get us further than entrenched positions and rallying cries.