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Introduction to humanitarian assistance

General data

Course ID: 2104-MON-INHA-OG-ISM Erasmus code / ISCED: 14.6 / (unknown)
Course title: Introduction to humanitarian assistance Name in Polish: Introduction to humanitarian assistance
Department: Institute of International Relations
Course groups:
ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): (not available)
view allocation of credits
Language: English
Type of course:

elective monographs

Prerequisites (description):


Short description:

The introductory course on humanitarian action aims at responding to students’ requirements for greater awareness of global humanitarian needs, the changing nature of disasters, for global solidarity to support the most vulnerable in global society, to promote the acknowledged humanitarian principles and associated instruments; also the requirement for awareness of the EU policies aiming at satisfying humanitarian needs in Europe. Part of the course is also devoted to Poland’s contribution to the global humanitarian effort through public sector and non-governmental organizations.

Full description:

The purpose of the course is to increase students’ knowledge of contemporary challenges to humanitarian action, to make them aware of both its complexity and of practical problems relating to its effectiveness.

Classes will start by presenting basic notions, concepts, principles, sources and subjects and will be followed by practical case studies.

The course will entail the following subject matters:

Moral foundations of humanitarian action:

- Origins of humanitarianism

- Values and guiding principles

- Codes of conduct

Legal norms relating to humanitarian actions:

- Public International Law

- International Humanitarian Law

- International Human Rights Law

- International Criminal Law

- International Disaster Response Law

The international system relevant for humanitarian action:

- United Nations system

- European Union as main actor

- Governments and Donors

- Regional organizations and global powers

- International and national NGOs

- Armed forces

- Position of Poland vis-a-vis these actors

Typology of disasters and humanitarian responses

- Natural disasters, man – made disasters (including armed conflicts) and complex humanitarian emergencies

- Analysis of different types of mapping of disasters

- Media and humanitarian work

- Lessons learned

- Case studies

Humanitarian action and its relation to geopolitics:

- Geopolitics and humanitarian risks

- Geopolitical analysis as a key factor for humanitarian strategy

- Humanitarian intervention and its impact on conflicts

- Case studies

Challenges and trends in humanitarian action:

- Emergency medicine and epidemiology (“killer diseases”)

- Sphere (basic needs, water and sanitation, food and nutrition)

- Gender based violence

- Refugees and displaced persons

- Assistance

- Protection

- Disaster risk reduction

- Accountability of humanitarian action

Humanitarian action in Poland

- Brief history

- Humanitarian legal framework and humanitarian priorities in and for Poland

- National structures in the field of humanitarian action

- Participation of Poland in multilateral mechanisms

- Key bilateral relations


SASSÒLI, M., BOUVIER, A. How Does Law Protect In War? Geneva, 2011

• The SPHERE project. Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response: http://www.sphereproject.org/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,200/lang,english/

• Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum: http://ihlforum.ning.com/

• Humanitarian Policy Group. The Principles of Humanitarian Action in International Humanitarian Law: http://www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/249.pdf

• International Committee of the Red Cross materials available at: http://www.icrc.org/eng

• Harvard Project on Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law: http://www.ihlresearch.org

• ICC materials:



Other materials will be recommended by lecturers

Learning outcomes:

Student who has completed the course:


Knows and understands the context of humanitarian action, its human and social impact and identifies main challenges to humanitarian action in global society.


Is able to develop self-critical analysis and judgement about humanitarian issues and to communicate them in an assertive manner


Is ready to assume concrete responsibilities vis-à-vis humanitarianism in Polish society.

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:

Written exam (also activity, preparation of paper or presentation)

Practical placement:


This course is not currently offered.
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Copyright by University of Warsaw.