Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

international diploma in Operational Humanitarian Assistance (IDOHA)

Human Rights In Humanitarian Crises

2 credits

International law creates obligations on governments to respect, protect, and promote fundamental human rights and provide humanitarian protections in times of conflict. International human rights and humanitarian protections codified in treaties, customary law, declarations, and other international norms all provide important protections for individuals and groups. These protections are no more important than in times of natural and manufactured disasters, but it is during these crises that these protections are especially threatened. Governments and non-state actors often avoid their obligations or pick and choose where and to what extent they will meet them. The role of the humanitarian actor is thus critical to constantly and consistently remind, reaffirm, encourage, and pressure all parties to ensure respect for international legal standards. To do this, the effective humanitarian actor must understand those standards, and have the skills and tools to negotiate their application in times of crisis.
In this course, students will examine the related but distinct bodies of human rights and humanitarian law, which both provide fundamental protections for individuals and groups. This will include a critical examination of the origins, principles, and applications of these bodies of law. The course will provide participants with a framework for understanding the legal aspects of delivering humanitarian assistance within that framework. The course will provide students with the necessary tools to fulfill their roles by introducing applicable conventions and protocols, explore ways where the law can enhance humanitarian assistance, and give students an opportunity to analyze case studies and develop a thorough understanding of the applicability of human rights and humanitarian law to their daily work.
With a thorough comprehension of these international laws, students will gain confidence and expertise in negotiating with other actors and navigating the various logistics of the humanitarian’s reality that sets formal standards and laws against the realities of on-the-ground challenges.
Topics covered include:  Human Rights Law (Introduction, history, concepts, (non-) state actors; civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, women’s rights and children’s rights); Tools for Humanitarian workers (natural disasters and human rights); Humanitarian Law (Introduction, history, Geneva Law, Hague Law, and related standards including rules of engagement, combatant status, determining conflicts); The human rights-based approach (integrating a human rights based approach into programming and projects), human rights monitoring and advocacy; The right to humanitarian assistance (legal concepts and current developments); Humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect; International Criminal Law (History, concepts, tribunals and the ICC, practical implications for humanitarian workers); International Disaster Response Law.

This course is a week-long elective course for the IDOHA module of the MIHA.  If interested in pursuing the MIHA, please apply here.

To take this course individually, independent of the Masters, follow this link.

For the dates and the location of our next Human Rights in Humanitarian Crises course, please visit our calendar.

Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs
33 West 60th St., Suite 804 New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212 636 6294 Fax: 212 636 7060 Email:

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