Reviews Books

In the Shadow of “Just Wars”: Violence, Politics and Humanitarian Action; Traditions, Values, and Humanitarian Action

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 29 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:297
  1. Johan von Schreeb, surgeon and health emergency analyst (
  1. department of public health sciences, division of international health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

    In the Shadow of “Just Wars”: Violence, Politics and Humanitarian Action

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    Ed Fabrice Weissman

    Hurst & Company/Médecins Sans Frontiéres, £14.95, pp 372 ISBN 1 85065 737 8

    Rating: GraphicGraphicGraphic

    Traditions, Values, and Humanitarian Action

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    Ed Kevin M Cahill

    Fordham University Press/The Center for International Health and Cooperation, New York, $24, pp 472

    ISBN 0 8232 2288 8

    Rating: GraphicGraphic

    I found these two books in the mail after returning from an assessment of the heartbreaking humanitarian situation in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The books partly deal with what I studied in DRC—how to describe, quantify, and communicate humanitarian needs to elicit better actions. The assessment challenge lies not only in the field but also in the concept of humanitarian action. Is humanitarian action a legal requirement that some authority or agency should be held responsible for, based on human rights? Or is it a voluntary response triggered by the humanitarian impulse to alleviate as much suffering as possible?

    Humanitarian action during armed conflict has legal protection under international humanitarian law provided it is neutral, independent, and impartial. In contrast humanitarian action for those in deep poverty aggravated …

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