MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
Armed Groups and Humanitarian Aid
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This unit explores the stakes of humanitarian action in armed conflicts and other situations of violence, with a focus on the role of armed groups. Often labelled as terrorists, sometimes welcomed as liberators, subject to varying positions of law, armed groups have a powerful influence on humanitarian needs, responses and outcomes. Their interactions with humanitarians have taken different forms over time, with a range of implications for people living amidst conflict and violence. Drawing on a range of historical and contemporary examples, the unit will introduce students to current concerns such as the instrumentalization of aid, and security and ‘access’ challenges in humanitarian action, and the importance of urban environments, while also questioning the assumption that these are recent phenomena. The course combines conflict and development analysis, drawing on examples from across a wide range of geographical areas and periods in contemporary history.
The aims of this course are to:
- Explore and apply legal, geo-political and historical perspectives in order to better understand the place of humanitarian action in armed conflict and other situations of violence.
- Examine the ways in which armed groups shape humanitarian needs, practice and outcomes.
- Critically engage and analyse both historical and contemporary humanitarian responses in armed conflicts and other situations of violence.
- Enhance students’ understanding of and ability to contribute to debates on humanitarian action in conflict and violence, through the development of analytical and presentation skills.
Knowledge and understanding
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- The legal frameworks governing the use of force and the provision of humanitarian assistance in armed conflicts, other situations of violence and areas controlled by ‘terrorist’ groups
- Debates about humanitarian engagement with armed groups
- How legal, security and development concerns influence humanitarian practice in armed conflict and other situations of violence
- Identify and evaluate different perspectives on humanitarian action in contexts of conflict and violence (e.g. beneficiaries, NGOs, UN agencies, armed groups, governments, diaspora networks, law, etc.).
- Critically analyse debates about humanitarian operations in these settings
- Investigate and analyse historical and contemporary humanitarian crises featuring armed groups
- Critically analyse the ways in which the core principles of humanitarian practice have been shaped by armed conflict, and the ways those principles shape the ways aid agencies engage with armed groups
- Research skills, including planning, prioritisation of tasks, identification and location of sources, evaluation of findings.
- Essay-writing skills related to the analysis of a specific question, construction of arguments, assessment and deployment of evidence, writing style.
- Applied analytical skills, built through an understanding of both academic and operational questions about humanitarian practice in situations of armed conflict.
- Participation in seminar discussion and presentations in order to aid the research, analysis and presentation skills.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Students will have the opportunity to develop interpretation and argumentation skills, both written and oral form, through assessed coursework and seminar presentations.
- Students will develop research and project management skills throughout the course.
- The course will foster an ability to move between different disciplinary approaches, promoting flexibility and adaptable working methods.
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking and analytical skills
- Oral communication
- Crafting and maintaining arguments Effective oral presentation and communication skills
- Written communication
- Writing and editorial skills, including for policy and practitioner audiences
- Meeting deadlines Working autonomously
Formative or Summative
Weighting within unit (if summative)
One essay from a list provided
Formative or Summative
Written feedback on assignments
Oral feedback in class
Oral feedback one-to-one during office hours
This list is indicative only, and subject to change:
Auyero, Javier, Philippe Bourgois, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, eds. 2015. Violence at the urban margins. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bradley, Miriam. 2016. Protecting civilians in war: the ICRC, UNHCR, and their limitations in internal armed conflicts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ICRC. 2018. The roots of restraint in war. Geneva: ICRC.
Jo, Hyeran. 2015. Compliant rebels: rebel groups and international law in world politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Magone, Claire, Michaël Neuman, and Fabrice Weissman, eds. 2011. Humanitarian negotiations revealed: the MSF experience. London: Hurst.
Modirzadeh, Naz K, Dustin A Lewis, and Claude Bruderlein. 2011. "Humanitarian engagement under counter-terrorism: a conflict of norms and the emerging policy landscape." International Review of the Red Cross 93 (883): 623-647. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1816383112000033.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Miriam Bradley||Unit coordinator|