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Universal Ethics

Whichever account one chooses about the origin of ethics, and there are many more, they all agree that human beings have emerged with common ethical features: a profound sense of responsibility to one another; rich emotions of empathy for the suffering of others; a strong feel for good and bad; an often urgent need to choose between right and wrong, and a desire to act on this choice. The ethical intent that drives humani?tarian action shares all these key features of ethics. Humanitarian action manifests an emotional concern for other people, and acts from an intuitive sense of responsibility.

Humanitarian ethics recognizes these ethical calls as universal. It builds its legitimacy around the world on the claim that this feeling and responsibility for the other is universal, and is evidence that human life is profoundly social, precious and is rightly protected. This universalism sits at the foundation of humanitarian ethics. We now turn to the main ethical principles of humanitarian action to see how the humanitarian profession makes the case for such universalism.

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