Managing Humanitarian Preparedness and Response

The delivery of humanitarian assistance and, indeed, the significance of the term humanitarianism in today’s political climate, are increasingly under scrutiny. We are witnessing situations such as the Ebola crisis and ongoing conflicts in Syria and the Congo that increasingly challenge the ability of the humanitarian community to be of assistance to those in need. In addition, the increasingly important role of “outside” actors such as the military and the corporate sector, pose significant challenges to what has been long considered the domain of a loosely described humanitarian community. Questions arise, such as what are the essential differences between humanitarian assistance and the direct provision of relief, or does it even matter? When does humanitarian assistance become part of the conflict, regardless of the intentions of the assistance providers? And finally, how meaningful is the generally accepted distinction between relief and development?



This course is designed to provide students with background on the humanitarian system and the tools and approaches required to deal with the changing nature of humanitarian preparedness and response in the field and at headquarters. A major question to be discussed is what is the future of humanitarian assistance? We will examine the concerns generated by the need for organizations to be accountable to a wide constituency, including beneficiaries, donors, the public, and the press.



How does one evaluate donor views on achievable goals as opposed to those of the relief organization field director or the UN official in charge?

What are the structural and operational imperatives and obstacles guiding decision making at theheadquarters and field level?

What are the links between data and program planning and operations?

How do issues of standards and accountability come into play in decision making?

The realities of staff training and staff selection.

Coordination as opposed to cooperation—an appraisal.

Civilian and military interaction—the changing relationship.

Political factors in the delivery of assistance.