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Presentation of the course

The course seeks to explore and analyse the use of different types of communication by several stakeholders involved in humanitarian crises and programmes. If communication has been at the core of humanitarian organisations’ public image and operational activities since the rise of modern humanitarianism at the end of the 19th century, these organisations have adapted their communication strategies to the competition of the international relief ecosystem, the complexity of humanitarian crises and the vulnerabilities of affected populations.

Objectives of the course

The main goals of this course will be:

a) to understand the multiple challenges of modern humanitarian communication, and the relations between the different actors of communication in particular;

b) to reflect on the typologies of communication involved, with a focus on life-saving communication (prevention, crisis and peace contexts), crisis reporting (relations with the media), public communication (PR, branding) and political communication (advocacy, negotiation);

c) to assess the use of new technologies and new media regarding the rise of digital humanitarianism;

d) to analyse the multi-faceted representations of humanitarian action and the economies of visualization of distant suffering.


- Class participation is encouraged, as it is an interactive class in which students should engage in discussion and debate about the different perspectives.

- A written essay, to develop a personal, in-depth research question related to one of the topics seen during the course.