Humanitarian diplomacy is a new term, yet an old practice, and has received relatively little academic attention. This contrasts with the reality of humanitarian practitioners’ work, which has shown increasing interest in and use of the term humanitarian diplomacy from the millennium onwards. Humanitarian diplomacy covers humanitarian action and its intricacies in catering for humanitarian needs, which sets it distinctively apart from other forms of diplomacy. In contributing to this underexplored area, in a theoretically driven discussion this article uses practice theory to propose an analytical framework for humanitarian diplomatic practices. The article suggests that humanitarian diplomacy, as currently led by practitioners, can be best understood by examining its characteristics at the level of its practices. This understanding produces a systematisation of the meaning of the term for scholarly audiences and assists practitioners themselves to identify their humanitarian diplomatic engagement as a self-standing practice.
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