BSc International Disaster Management & Humanitarian Response / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Institutions and Governance

Unit code HCRI11081
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This is an optional unit for HCRI students taking the BSc in International Disaster Management.

This course introduces students to the core concepts of governance and government, and critically explores the different institutions and scales at which governance takes place in the international system. It highlights the key institutions and their areas of international governance. It will introduce students to the diversity of actors involved in the humanitarian system, outlining the positions, possibilities and responsibilities of different levels of actors involved (individual, national, organisational, national and international). It will ask the question ‘Who governs?’ and invite reflection on how governance is organised and accomplished. A key focus of the course will be on exploring how different actors might navigate and participate in international governance.


•    This course unit aims to provide students with an introduction to theories of governance and government and to consider how there operate at an international level.
•    Students will develop an understanding of the key concepts of governance and be able to recognise them in humanitarian practices.
•    Students will develop a familiarity with major international institutions and organisations, such as the various UN bodies, the World Bank and ECHO, and be aware of their functions. To recognise the inherent power asymmetries in international  governance and to question the legitimacy of this, as well as its effects on humanitarian responses. 

Knowledge and understanding

•    Understanding key theories and concepts relating to governance and government at the international level;
•    Develop a critical understanding of actors and humanitarian governance; 
•    To understand the role and responsibilities of humanitarian actors and how this impacts on their ability to play a role in humanitarian governance
•    To understand how international humanitarian governance is rooted in, and plays a role in influencing,  the politics of the societies contributing to it. 
•    To appreciate the complex formal and informal power dynamics at work in humanitarian governance. 

Intellectual skills

•    Critically interrogate the literature related to international institutions and their roles in governance 
•    Develop a critical understanding of the relationship between politics and international governance, using contemporary and historical case studies 
•    To be able to analyse and compare different actors’ abilities to inform, navigate and influence international governance institutions.   

Practical skills

•    Develop an understanding of how international governance works within different organisations;
•    Understand how academic work relates to practice and interrogate the effectiveness of different governance approaches;
•    Demonstrate analytical and debating skills with peers and tutors through tutorials and online discussions and forums;
•    To be able to identify networks within humanitarian operations;
•    Show effective use of library resources drawing relevant literature, and seeking out information through the use of virtual sources to underpin learning and gathering information for written work.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•    Develop communication skills for a variety of audiences
•    Work effectively in a team and engage stakeholders
•    Develop, plan and achieve individual research outcomes
•    Develop analytical skills and the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing
•    Develop confidence articulating ideas and opinions during group discussions

Employability skills

Group/team working
Teamwork; recognising and identifying views of others and working constructively with them
Oral communication
Presentation; capacity to make oral presentations, using appropriate media for a target audience
Information Retrieval; ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance; time management; ability to schedule tasks in order of importance; improving own learning; ability to improve one's own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning

Assessment methods

Group presentations


Essay plan

Week 10


70% (end of semester deadline)

Feedback methods

Written feedback

All summative assessments

Oral feedback on presentations


Additional feedback available verbally in office hours

F & S

Recommended reading

Barnett, M. 2013. ‘Humanitarian Governance’, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 16, pp. 379-398.

Wilkinson, R 2005. The Global Governance Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

Fassin, D, 2007. ‘Humanitarianism: a non-governmental government?’ in Michel Feher (ed) Non-governmental politics. London: MIT Press.

Lautze, S., Raven-Roberts, A., & Erkineh, T. 2009. Humanitarian governance in the new millennium: an Ethiopian case study. Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG).

Mac Ginty, R., & Peterson, J. H. (2015). The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action. Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Catherine Arthur Unit coordinator

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