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Course Description

This course from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and HarvardX seeks to prepare learners to recognize and analyze emerging challenges in the humanitarian field. The course explores the ethical and professional principles that guide humanitarian response to conflict and disaster. Participants will learn the legal and historical frameworks that shaped these principles, test their applicability to the challenges faced by humanitarian actors today.

Teaching Team


Michael VanRooyen

Jennifer Leaning


Claude Bruderlein

Kayla Enriquez

Parveen Parmar

Nahuel Arenas-Garcia

David Polatty

HarvardX Project Leads

Summer Marion

April Opoliner

Jascha Smilack (current)

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Project Lead

Katie Farineau

Content Contributors

Julia Brooks

Natalie Chang

Benjamin Davies

Katie Farineau

Robert Grace

Sooyeon Kang

Alexandra VanRooyen

Video Editor

Walter Blazewicz

Technical Support

Shilpa Idnani

For technical assistance:


Rachel D'Erminio

Video Voiceover

Robert Grace

Course Outline and Release Schedule

The Humanitarian Principles & International Humanitarian Law 

Case 1: Goma 

Practitioner Perspectives:

Local Capacity


Aid Vs. Development

Vulnerable Populations

Case 2: Somalia 

Practitioner Perspectives:



Civil-Military Relations

Case 3: The Balkans

Practitioner Perspectives:

Perception & Acceptance

Neutrality and Independence

Case 4: Afghanistan/Pakistan 

Practitioner Perspectives:

Risk and Security

Mental Health


Certificate Requirements

To earn a certificate, the learner must earn a score of 80% or greater by the end of the course. To earn an ID Verified Certificate, you must switch to the IDV track before the IDV deadline, and you must earn a passing score by the course close. These deadlines can be found on the "Course" tab. The grades are weighted as follows: 

Multiple choice – 45%

Discussion engagement – 45%

Final Assignment - 10%


Students are expected to complete all videos, read the cases in their entirety, and complete all required reading. Students are also expected to participate on discussion forums. To fully participate, learners will post original, relevant posts that answer the question prompt, and also reply to classmate's posts in a respectful and thoughtful manner.