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Dunantist is named after Henry Dunant (1828–1910), who inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.[1] It refers to the group of humanitarian practitioners, who follow the traditional approach to humanitarism, which comprises four fundamental principles, namely:

  • Humanity – alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found
  • Neutrality – do not take sides in a conflict
  • Impartiality – aid should be based on needs alone, regardless of race, class, gender and sex
  • Independence – from benefactors and institutional donors

The term was coined in the 2003 research article "Humanitarian NGOs: Challenges and Trends" published by the Humanitarian Policy Group of the Overseas Development Institute, which characterized humanitarian organizations by their principal values and operational approach.

Dunantist organizations, named after Henry Dunant, who inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. are independent, neutral organizations that attempt to work outside the influence of the state. Médecins Sans Frontières is an example of a Dunantist humanitarian organization.

In contrast, "Wilsonian" organizations (named after President Woodrow Wilson, as first described by David Rieff in his book A Bed for the Night), work in willing partnership with governments who seek to integrate foreign policy interests with aid activities. Wilsonian organizations differ from Dunantist organizations in that they accept stronger state influence.

Other examples of NGO types include:

  • Solidarist – these organizations reject impartiality, and their humanitarian aid programmes follow a clear political point of view. The Norwegian People's Aid organization is an example.
  • Commercial – these organizations are fully dependent on government funding as well as private enterprises such as Haliburton, Hechtel and private military companies. Their profit motive means they have little regard for humanitarian principles.


  1. ^ "Jean Henri Dunant Bio". Nobel Prize laureates. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 

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