Digital pre-panel I "Governing Humanitarianism - Past, Present and Future"

Researchers and Professionals

In preparation for the Herrenhausen Conference "Governing Humanitarianism" in 2022, two online pre-panels will take place on September 27 and 28, 2021. Scholars from various disciplines and practitioners in humanitarian sectors are invited to join this years' online event. #HKGovHum

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Video-recording available in our media center via: Human Rights and Humanitarianism - a Complicated Relationship?


Please note that there is a second digital panel will be held the day after featuring a keynote on "Forced displacement" by Adama Dieng.

In the last two decades, humanitarianism and human rights have crystallized as two flourishing fields of research within various disciplines. Both concepts have been the subject of a lively international debate among political scientists, legal scholars, and historians, concerning their respective histories, nature, and impacts. Humanitarianism and human rights are often presented as opposing terms, and sometimes even as rival concepts, by scholars advocates on both sides. Such definitions typically present humanitarianism as resting upon a discourse of charity and suffering, while human rights are based on a discourse of solidarity and justice. Yet despite their differences, both concepts also share some similar historical origins and developments. Perhaps most importantly, both embody entangled notions of humanity. Despite the academic efforts to draw clear line between them, the boundaries between aid, relief, and rights remain both blurred and complicated. 

The main goal of this digital panel is to discuss this complex relationship from various disciplinary perspectives. Rather than highlighting the differences between humanitarianism and human rights, leading experts from political science, international law, and international history will focus on the manifold overlaps and links between the two fields. When and how did these concepts compete and reinforce each other? In what ways did the emergence of humanitarian norms influence and contribute to the global emergence of international human rights law? What entanglements, dilemmas, and tensions emerge out of various competing concepts of humanitarianism and global human rights? And finally, how does this entwined history influence our landscape of international politics and crisis management today?

The digital panel "Human Rights and Humanitarianism - a Complicated Relationship?" is part of the Herrenhausen Conference "Governing Humanitarianism - Past, Present and Future", funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. 

Digital pre-panel for 2022 Herrenhausen Conference
"Human Rights and Humanitarianism - a Complicated Relationship?" as part of the forthcoming Herrenhausen Conference on "Governing Humanitarianism - Past, Present and Future"
September 27, 2021, 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. (CET) 


Prof. Dr. Michael Barnett, Professor of International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA

Prof. Dr. Julia Irwin, Professor of International History, University of South Florida, Tampa, USA

Prof. Dr. Angelika Nußberger, Professor of International Law, Director of the Institute of Eastern European Law at the University of Cologne and former Vice President at the European Court of Human Rights in Straßbourg

Chair:  Prof. Dr. Fabian Klose,  Professor of International History and Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Cologne


The digital conference language is English.


There are no fees for online attendance. A prior registration to the event is not required.

Herrenhausen Conferences

The Herrenhausen Conferences, organized by the Volkswagen Foundation at Herrenhausen Palace, a modern convention center, focus on scientific topics of high social impact that are of particular relevance to the present and future. The Herrenhausen Conferences address unanswered questions and unsolved problems and their relevance for society. They provide international experts as well as junior researchers with a platform for an intense interdisciplinary dialogue on exciting new areas of research and innovative methodological approaches.