Revision with unchanged content. The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality provide an ethical framework that defines and delineates the humanitarian space within which relief agencies are supposed to operate. Current experiences, however, show that these traditional principles were not designed to cope with the development underlying the increasing merging of humanitarian aid and politics. To avoid political manipulation, relief organizations must rethink these principles and face the responsibility of getting more involved in the broader political arena to be able to take appropriate action, and to avoid long-term damages on a society. The author examines the difficult realities in a heterogenic humanitarian environment, by addressing all the complex legal and political issues surrounding an emergency, including the impact of external actors like donors, host governments, and armed forces. It therefore provides a realistic understanding for everyone who is working in the field of humanitarian aid and development policy of the possibilities and limits of being “neutral” and “impartial” in current crisis responses. In this regard, the paper further analyzes the ‘Sphere’ process on how far it is taking political influences on humanitarian aid into consideration, and can thus actually be seen as a reasonable guideline for relief organizations in the 21st century.