Token humanitarian intervention

Other Names:
Government exploitation of humanitarianism
Alibi relief
Palliative compassion
Surrogate aid

Humanitarian aid which deals with symptoms and not causes, and at the same time declares itself sufficient.


Food appeals for starving people on television serve to drain the giving capacity of people into acute relief without channelling funds to long-term remedial assistance. The lives that are "saved" may be lost in the next famine. The emergency helicopter "rescue" by the UK of a single child injured by shrapnel in the Bosnian war is a symbolic surrogate. No expense is spared and her operation and recovery are headline news, temporarily displacing the pervading cynicism, anger and hopelessness surrounding the "peace negotiations" and the cumulative misery associated with the war.


The satisfaction that comes from giving money or personal assistance to others in need is questionable. Very often the act is one of short-term selfish gain if it conveniently allows the fundamental injustices, such as indulgent lifestyles or ethnic cleansing, to proceed.

Narrower Problems:
Token development initiatives
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
08.12.2017 – 11:15 CET