We use our own and third-party cookies to perform an analysis of use and measurement of our website, to improve our services, as well as to facilitate personalized advertising by analysing your browsing habits and preferences. You can change the settings of cookies or get more information, see cookies policy. I understand and accept the use of cookies.

icono de curso

International Relations in Humanitarian Action


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Elective Courses




This course combines the advanced study of international relations with an exploration of key debates in humanitarianism. Humanitarian action plays a significant role in international politics, accounting for a growing proportion of international aid budgets, the subject of increasing attention from the UN Security Council, and the practical concern of multiple UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations. In spite of its salience in world politics, scholars of international relations have traditionally paid relatively little attention to humanitarian policy and practice, and students and practitioners of humanitarianism have not drawn significantly on the concepts and theories offered by the field of international relations. This is beginning to change, and the IR literature on humanitarianism is growing exponentially.

The course will provide a rigorous introduction to the major themes and debates in the study of humanitarianism and humanitarian action, and throughout the course, students will be encouraged to apply their existing knowledge of international relations to the study of humanitarian action.


Each class will be split into two parts: the first will focus on a case study humanitarian emergency; and the second will address a more thematic general topic.

In the first half, one student (or groups of two or three students, depending on enrolment numbers) will give a 20-25 minute presentation offering a critical evaluation of the international response to a particular humanitarian emergency, which we will then discuss. We will agree the presentation schedule in the first class. In the second half, we will have a lecture/seminar on a related topic in this study of humanitarianism.


  • Case study presentation: 30%
  • Midterm paper: 2000 word academic essay OR policy brief to be submitted by email (mbradley@ibei.org) in MS Word format: 30%
  • Take home exam (to be completed in a 48-hour period in exams week): 40%

Midterm papers that are more than 10% above or below 2000 words will be penalised (by one point – from a ten-point scale – per additional 10% difference). Papers submitted up to a week late, without an extension agreed by me in writing, will receive a grade but no written feedback. Papers received more than a week late will receive a zero grade.

Late exams will be penalised by one point (from a ten-point scale) for every hour past the deadline.