Paper: Philanthropist and humanitarian, officer, aid worker and professional. Looking at the past to look forward

Paper details

Paper authors Natalie Klein-Kelly
In panel on Who or what constitutes the humanitarian?
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Work of humanitarian nature has been given many names in the past, including that of philanthropist and reformer, do-gooder and aid worker, officers and administrators, managers and advisors, - and, specifically for the ICRC, the title of “delegate”. There have always been “professionals” amongst these – doctors predominantly but not exclusively. Taking a perspective that reaches into the 19th century, this paper explores in how far altruistic and professional elements can be traced back and existed within the different terminology. It asks how terminology is linked to overall developments in the societies of the time of the “the humanitarian”. Using the ICRC’s delegates as an example, the paper seeks to embed the recent trends toward professionalization into larger perspectives, asking in how far it is the narrative surrounding the personalities that engage in this work, rather than the personalities themselves, that have changed.