Geopolitics in humanitarian action Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 15 May 2016

Geopolitics in humanitarian action

The analysis of how political decisions are conditioned by geographical settings is the subject matter of geopolitics. In purely spatial terms, geopolitics is the study of boundaries and areas. In conceptual terms, geopolitics comprises the study of international relations and the outcome of power struggles, at local and global scales. It explores events such as the emergence of new states, the fragmentation of countries, and regional conflicts affecting several countries. The most important and long-lasting geopolitical event of the 20th century is the Cold War. The international humanitarian system has witnessed a dramatically transformation since the end of the Cold War, and even more so since the “war on terror”.

To understand humanitarian intervention in contemporary complex emergencies, the course will analyze the humanitarian action and the changing geopolitical system. We will discuss many of the fundamental debates concerning the nature, effectiveness and evolution of the humanitarian actions, the different humanitarian actors and the accompanying political dynamics that arise in variety of regional contexts. Among other issues, students will critically analyze the relationship between aid and conflict; concepts of neutrality; relationship to military intervention; among others.

We will use case studies to understand the growing complexity and the political weave of actors and influences affecting all those involve in humanitarian action and the changing operating environment. The course will encourage students to consider what is or could be the international community‘s ―carrying capacity for response in a future of small-scale and regional wars producing humanitarian crises in the years to come. Finally, the course discussion will focus in on models of cooperation among actors that empower rather than marginalize those populations and communities trapped in conflict, displacement and deprivation. Course general objectives

This course examines the evolution of the humanitarian action in relation to changes in the international system. The students will be able to: a) Analyze the political economy of conflict and humanitarian assistance; b) Analyze the evolving nature of conflict in the international context; c) Understand the evolving architecture of the international humanitarian system; d) Analyze contemporary aspects of security and conflict, the concept of state sovereignty, and the uneven geopolitics of humanitarian action; e) Explore major debates and controversies of contemporary humanitarian action.

Methods of assessment
Grading will be based on the following marks: VG or G (Distinction or Pass) as well as ECTS grades. Grading will be a combination of the in-class team oral presentations (40%), a written final essay (50%), and the active participation of students in class (10%).

The groups will be integrated by 5 or 6 students each. They will present to the class one selected humanitarian intervention case in 30 minutes with 15 additional minutes for questions and answers. All members of the group should participate. Presentations will be scheduled the first day of the course. The humanitarian intervention recommended for presentations are: Syria, Iraq, former-Yugoslavia (Kosovo), the Horn of Africa, Ruanda, Afghanistan and Sudan. We can discuss other humanitarian interventions. This course is heavily participatory.

For this reason, presence and active participation will be expected at all sessions. Participation shall reflect critical analysis and reflection based on readings. The final written essay will be submitted during the IX Session of the course (Friday 22 November). The professor will explain the essay´s topic in the beginning of the course. The essay consists of a maximum of 2500 words. Preparation for class includes readings from books, articles, and websites. Classes are a combination of lecture, discussion, presentations, and videos. Sessions overview

Session I: Mon 4 November, 10-12 Room TBA
Introduction: Overview of course and topics presented; course requirements and expectations. Objectives:
1. Review of Syllabus;
2. Discussion of course requirements;
3. Selection of oral group presentations.

Session II: Wed 6 November, 10-12 Room TBA
Geopolitics: Overview Conflict analysis and the political economy of violence


1.- Understand the changing dynamics of conflict in the international system; 2.- Develop alternative means of analyzing conflict and understanding the impact of conflict; 3.- Understand the interaction of humanitarian programming and conflict.

Session III: Fri 8 November, 10-12 Room TBA

International and regional organizations in the global system


1.- Understand the role of governmental and non-governmental actors in the international system; 2.- Discuss the role of security institutions: What is the role of NATO, UN, UE, OAS and the other regional organizations in dealing with interstate and intrastate conflicts?

Session IV: Mon 11 November, 10-12 Room Eng TBA

The evolving nature of humanitarian crisis


1.- Understand the changing nature of humanitarian crises;
2.- Analyze the implications for state sovereignty of International
humanitarian action.

Session V: Wed 13 November, 10-12 Room TBA
An introduction to humanitarian action and the evolving architecture of humanitarian intervention Objectives:
1.- Describe the historical evolution and trends in humanitarian action; 2.- Understand the normative foundations of humanitarian action; 3.- Understand the normative frameworks that have guided humanitarian action. Session VI: Fri 15 November, 10-12 Room TBA

Main players and actors in humanitarian action
1.- Understand the definitions, types and organization of humanitarian agencies.

Session VII: Mon 18 November, 10-12 Room TBA
The contemporary operating environment
1.-Explore the major debates and controversies of contemporary humanitarism Presentation of 2 Case Studies
Session VII: Wed 20 November, 10-12 TBA
The future of humanitarian action
1.-Understand a complex political emergency and its consequences; 2.-Identify recent trends in humanitarian action.
Presentation of 2 case studies
Session IX: Fri 22 November, 10-12 Room TBA
Final discussion on models of cooperation among diverse actors that empower rather than marginalize vulnerable populations and communities trapped in conflict and humanitarian action. Presentation of 2 case studies and final essay submission.

Literature List
Books required:

Walker, Peter & Daniel Maxwell. Shaping the Humanitarian World. New York:
Routledge, 2009 Electronic resources:

Anderson, Mary. The Do No Harm Handbook. Cambridge, Local Capacities for Peace, Project, 2004. Accessible on:

Barnett, Michael. Humanitarianism transformed. Perspectives on politics, Vol. 3, No.4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 723-740. Accessible on:

Bellamy, Alex. The Responsibility to Protect—Five Years On. Ethics & International Affairs Vol.24 (2), 2010, pp. 143–169. Accessible on:

Collinson, Sarah, Samir Elhawary and Robert Muggah. States of fragility: stabilization and its implications for humanitarian action. Disasters. Vol. 34 Supplement, 2010, pp. 275−S296. Accessible on:

Klare, Michael. The New Geography of Conflict. Foreign Affairs, Vol.80, No.3 (May-Jun., 2001), pp. 49-61. Accessible on:

Moore, Jonathan. Deciding Humanitarian Intervention. Social Research, Vol. 74, No. 1, Difficult Choices (SPRING 2007), pp. 169-200. Accessible on:

Rieff, David. Humanitarianism in crisis. Foreign Affairs, Vol.81, No.6 (Nov-Dec 2002), pp. 111-121. Accessible on:

Chapters of books recommended:

Bellamy, Allex. ”Humanitarian Intervention in world politics” in Baylis, John et al. The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford: Oxford university Press, 2008, pp. 522-538.

Duffield, Mark. ”Global Governance and the New Wars” In Duffield, Mark. Global Governance and the Causes of Conflict. New York: Zed book, 2002, pp. 108-136.

Keen, David, ”Going to War: How Rational Is It? in International Committee of the Red. Cross, War, Money and Survival. Geneva, 2000, pp. 28-31.

Kupchan, Charles A. ”Empires and Geopolitical Competition: Gone for Good” in Crocker, Chester et al. (eds.) Turbulent Peace: The challenges of managing international conflict. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2001,pp. 39-52.

Spearin, Christopher. ”Humanitarians and mercenaries: Partners in security Governance?” in Krahmann, Elke. New threats and new actors in international security. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, pp. 45-68

Rufin, Jean-Christophe ”The Economics of War: A New Theory for Armed Conflicts” in International Committee of the Red Cross. War, Money and Surviva, Geneva, 2000, pp. 22-27

Recommended reports and electronic articles:

ICISS. The Responsibility to Protect. Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. New York, UN, 2001. Accessible on:

The Sphere Project. “Humanitarian Charter & Minimum Standards in Disaster Response”,english/

de Torrente, Nicolas. Humanitarian Action under Attack: Reflections on the Iraq War. Harvard Human Rights Journal. Vol. 17(1), 2004, pp. 1-30.

Huysmans, Jef. Shape-Shifting NATO: Humanitarian Action and the Kosovo Refugee Crisis. Review of International Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 599-618. Accessible on:

Weiss, Thomas and Peter Hoffman. The Fog of Humanitarianism: Collective Action problems and Learning-Challenged Organizations. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, Vol.1 (1), 2007, pp. 47-65

Useful Humanitarian websites:

Relief Web
Alert Net
Collaborative learning project United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. World Food Program:

The Humanitarian Policy Group
The Humanitarian Practice Network
The Sphere Project
Action Learning Network for Accountability

And Performance (ALNAP)
The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership

International (HAP-I)
People in Aid

Websites of major humanitarian agencies
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian

Affairs (OCHA)
International Committee of the Red Cross International Federation of Red Cross and

Red Crescent Societies
Médecins sans Frontières
The World Food Programme
World Vision

Journal of humanitarian Assistance:

Kofi Annan: Center of the Storm, PBS Video, 2002

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