Concepts in Humanitarian Assistance

Unit code: HMG7410 | Study level: Postgraduate
(One credit point is usually equivalent to one hour of study per week)
City Campus
St Albans


Climate change, urbanisation, emerging infectious disease and widening socio-economic disparities have rendered the world’s population more vulnerable to disasters and in need for humanitarian assistance. This unit explores the history of humanitarian assistance and the role of different actors within the system. The continuum from prevention and risk reduction to humanitarian response and the transition to sustainable development is examined in the context of natural disasters, complex emergencies and post-conflict settings. Frameworks, mechanisms and tools for co-ordination, partnership, accountability and minimum standards in humanitarian response are investigated and critiqued. The potential roles, scope of practice and responsibilities of the government, organizations and civil society, within the international humanitarian system are addressed. The principles and ethics that inform practice in the field underpin the teaching in this unit.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critically review the principles and characteristics of humanitarian assistance endeavours;
  2. Analyse contemporary challenges in humanitarian response in different contexts and extrapolate solutions to inform future practice;
  3. Interpret statements of ethics, human rights and codes of conduct in the field of humanitarian response and hypothesise their practical impact;
  4. Advocate for the use of specific theoretical and practical tools to inform humanitarian assistance; and
  5. Apply the Disaster Management Cycle to a range of humanitarian assistance scenarios.


For Melbourne campuses

Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 30%
Analysis of the principles of humanitarian assistance (1500 words)
Assessment type: Other
Grade: 20%
Debate on ethical dilemmas in humanitarian assistance (1000 words)
Assessment type: Performance
Grade: 50%
Group Simulation on a humanitarian response on a specific disaster (30 mins)

Required reading

Required readings will be made available on VU Collaborate.

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following course(s):

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