Humanitarian organizations are fundamentally concerned with addressing the suffering of civilians. The decision by an armed actor to resort to force can result in greater protection or greater harm, and has at least as significant an impact on civilian lives as any decision made during the conduct of hostilities. Yet, humanitarian organizations rarely publicly advocate for or against the use of force. This article explores the perceived and actual limitations that humanitarian principles place on the public advocacy of humanitarian organizations regarding the recourse to force. It begins with a discussion of the relevant legal framework and explication of the fundamental humanitarian principles. It then goes on to discuss the political and operational implications for humanitarian organizations that choose to speak out, and outlines the issues that these organizations may consider when choosing to adopt a public position on the use of force.


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