A debate is continuing between old humanitarianism, based on neutrality and short-term, relief-based assistance, and new humanitarianism, centring on advocacy and development. This paper views this deliberation as the humanitarian equivalent of the legal discussion between international humanitarian law and international human rights law. It tries to regulate it using the lex specialis and the belt and suspenders approach. Whether or not to be neutral is the key issue. Analysis of this point makes it possible to reveal the limited functionality of the lex specialis: it does not determine which approach should and should not be employed; there is no superior methodology. In conclusion, the belt and suspenders approach helps one to comprehend that ‘what is the right method for humanitarian actors?’ is not the right question to ask; both positions are valid, or simply the two approaches apply. It is important, therefore, to clarify and combine old and new humanitarianism.
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