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date: 12 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter adopts an interpretivist perspective to map the differences between human rights and humanitarianism in the contemporary period. It opens by briefly examining the case for their similarity, focusing on the shared discourse of humanity and historical origins. Notwithstanding these common orientations, each field of study and practice constructs strikingly different histories, showcasing different turning points, identity-defining events, and narratives. These alternative narratives expose some fundamental divisions between these fields. The subsequent section sets out the case for difference between human rights and humanitarianism in the post-Cold War period. It suggests that a fundamental difference is that human rights revolves around legal discourse whose purpose is to further human flourishing and humanitarianism around moral sentiments whose purpose is to rescue lives at immediate risk. These contrasting discourses account for differences in the following areas: purpose; principles; politics; and practices.

Keywords: human rights, humanitarianism, humanity, duty of care, sovereignty, cosmopolitanism

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