Introduction to Humanitarian Action
This course familiarizes participants with the fascinating but demanding field of international humanitarian action and the manifold problems associated with reducing human suffering in conflict areas. This course is designed to help students think through the main practical and academic issues—if not dilemmas—and debates in humanitarian affairs. Understanding these issues provides the participating students with an insight into the broader context of humanitarian assistance, which helps to understand and explain strengths and shortcomings of such aid and the (limited) options for further improvement of humanitarian action and its management. The lecture addresses the ideas behind; as well as the practices and legal context of humanitarian action, particularly the politics and management of humanitarian organizations and crises. In this vein, the lecture also discusses the main critiques of humanitarian action and possible alternatives to it. It is based on the idea that humanitarian aid should be carefully with a long-term perspective in mind. Otherwise, it can either reinforce conflict and exclusion, neglect the root causes of (complex) crises, or hinder access at a later stage of the crisis or during other crises. The course consists of three interrelated sections:
1. Context and Legal Basics
2. Actors and Organizations
3. Challenges and Cross-cutting Issue
The overall aim is to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of humanitarian action and develop their analytical skills to understand the differences between rhetoric and reality of past and present humanitarian interventions. Upon successful participation, students will
- possess an overview of the history, issues, dilemmas, and actors in humanitarian intervention and the combination of unique factors and recurring issues;
- understand the importance of a long-term perspective and local participation in humanitarian intervention;
- know how to research and where to find relevant information on humanitarian crises, which is necessary to future work in the field; and
- be able to assess shortcomings of current management approaches to humanitarian affairs and identify conceptual and practical problems.
Requirements for course certificates/module examinations
The final grade consists of a Referat (presentation with a 1-page handout) (30 %) during the semester, as well as an exam at the end of the semester (70 %).
Optionalbereich students will need to participate in additional thematic study trips of their choice. further information will be provided in the introductory session.
This course is open to students with a strong interest in interdisciplinary themes from all schools or faculties at Ruhr University Bochum and UNIC universities. Requirements for participation: minimum 2nd semester, good knowledge of the English language (the lecture is entirely taught in English), and a high interest in international humanitarian action.
From the winter semester 2021/2022 on, the course will also be open to UNIC-Students with up to 7 places. You can find more detailed information here: https://public.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/sl/unic/Pages/View.aspx?CID=144
Interested students may sign up via Campus Office (Course no.: 080297) from 4 September 2021 8am. Further information about the Optionalbereich-module can be found here: https://module.optio.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/modules/2097,
Yanacopulos, Helen, Hanlon, J. (2005) Civil War, Civil Peace, James Currey, Oxford, Ohio University Press, Open University UK, Milton Keynes.
Walker, P. and Maxwell, D.G., (2009) Shaping the Humanitarian World, Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon, New York.
Further articles and web-based resources will be indicated in the syllabus and on Moodle.