What is humanitarianism?

Explore the concept of humanitarianism and the shared qualities that make us human.

Child smiling by aid boxes
Lesson plan, videos
Humanitarianism and the Red Cross

By looking at the ideas of kindness and human dignity, this teaching resource explores what it really means to be a humanitarian. Discussion topics, group activities and a moving film help to develop learners’ sense of empathy and understanding of the topic.


Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • consider what makes us human
  • explore the concept of humanitarianism and what it means to be a humanitarian
  • discuss the idea of human dignity.


Resource overview

1. Starter activity: What makes us human?

Encourage learners to begin their exploration of humanitarianism, starting with the question “what makes us human?”

2. Humanitarianism is…

A group activity which provides learners with the opportunity to describe and define what humanitarianism means to them.

3. Unpacking humanitarianism

Learners develop their ideas about humanitarianism by engaging with different perspectives. They discuss a short video about humanity.

4. Human dignity

Explore the concept of human dignity, and how dignity can be respected and preserved through humanitarian action.

5. Being a humanitarian

Discover the values and skills that might be needed to act in a humanitarian way.

6. I am humanitarian

Finish with a moving video about humanity. Learners identify simple acts they could perform to take humanitarian action in their lives.

Video: Our world, your move for humanity


These resources were written by Rob Bowden and Rosie Wilson of Lifeworlds Learning. They were published in February 2015 and reviewed in September 2017.

The photo shows a boy in Iraq holding a box of relief items (© Mohammed Ghafur Ahmed Muayad/ICRC).