This paper examines the 3D (defence, diplomacy and development) framework for humanitarian interventions in weak states and/or conflict situations. It accepts that there are some considerable strengths built into this strategic concept for it privileges both a “whole of government” approach and the need to emphasize capacity building in all areas of governance. It argues, however, that the 3D framework remains too narrow in its logic and mode of application.

The paper asserts that the 3D approach needs to be complemented by another configuration termed the 3Ns - niches, norms and networks. In suggesting that the framework guiding humanitarian interventions needs to be extended in this fashion, this work considers both evolving cases (Afghanistan, Haiti and potentially Darfur) and offers a detailed examination of the pivotal Canadian rescue mission to Zaire at the end of 1996. At the core of the paper is the contention that Canada needs to cast its involvement in humanitarian interventions through a less bureaucratically driven approach. What is required instead is a fuller appreciation of contextual considerations.