Contemporary Humanitarian Action

Academic year
Subject Area
Área Científica do Menor
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
1st Cycle Studies

Recommended Prerequisites

General knowledge of contemporary international politics.
Mastery of the English language (reading and comprehension).
Knowledge of the techniques and styles of academic writing.

Teaching Methods

The organization of the classes assumes an active participation from the students. Besides the theoretical framing of the different topics, particular importance is given to content analysis and context debate focused on course readings and case-studies that inform the debates under analysis.

Learning Outcomes

Approach the international political system with a focus on the different actors in conflicts and humanitarian crises, promoting a deeper knowledge of the various theories and concepts that frame humanitarian action as well as the debates around those dynamics.

Analyse the various humanitarian issues at the international level particularly the political appropriation of the humanitarian discourse and its instrumentalization by States and international organizations, as well as the increased visibility of humanitarian action.

- Understanding concepts and logics underlying humanitarianism and the related international framework.

- Identification and criticaly analysis of the implications of the existing different option in the various dimensions of humanitarian aid, intervening actors and beneficiary groups.

Work Placement(s)



I.Classic Humanitarian Action

- actors

- principles

- legal framework

II. Contemporary humanitarian action

- New conflicts/complex emergencies

- New humanitarianism: dilemmas (politicization, militarization...)

- New actors

- Case-studies

III. Contemporary debates

IV. Humanitarian action in the EU

V. The nexus humanitarianism - development - security

VI. The humanitarian reform (2005) and the World Humanitarian Summit (2016)

Head Lecturer(s)

Daniela Rute Dos Santos Nascimento

Assessment Methods

Periodic or by final exam as given in the course information: 100.0%


Barnett, Michael (2011) Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Introdução, capítulo 8 e conclusões.

Weiss, Thomas (2013) Humanitarian Business. Cambridge: Polity Press (978-0-7456-6331-9)

(1996) “The changing context of humanitarian action” The Adelphi Papers 36(305): 10-18.

O'Sullivan, Kevin; Hilton, Matthew; Fiori, Juliano (2016) “Humanitarianisms in context” European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire 23(1-2): 1-15.

Skinner, Rob; Lester, Alan (2012) “Humanitarism and Empire: New Research Agendas” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40(5): 729-747.

Munro, Sir Alan (1998) “Humanitarianism and conflict in a post‐Cold War World” The RUSI Journal, 143(6): 14-19.

Chandler, David G. (2001) “The Road to Military Humanitarianism: How the Human Rights NGOs Shaped A New Humanitarian Agenda” Human Rights Quarterly 23(3): 678-700.

Nascimento, Daniela (2015) “One step forward, two steps back? Humanitarian Challenges and Dilemmas.