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If ‘humanitarian protection’ is a much debated concept, this is due not only to some ambiguity surrounding the term ‘protection’, but also to the multiple meanings conferred upon the adjective ‘humanitarian’. This paper examines a number of contexts within which this phrase has been mainstreamed into legal and/or policy discourse, and the implications of this juxtaposition of ‘humanitarian’ and ‘protection’ with regard to (i) the legal obligations of states under international humanitarian law; (ii) the specific functions of protection-mandated agencies, in particular ICRC and UNHCR; and (iii) the responsability of the larger ‘humanitarian community’ as “protection .. grow[s] from specialized function to jargon champion” .

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Discussion paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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