Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies celebrates 25 years of Innovation in Teaching and Research.


The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023. The Centre which is dedicated to humanitarian studies was officially established in 1998. It was the first Centre focused on providing academic, post-graduate training courses for humanitarian practitioners, and it continues to be a world leading Centre today. 

Today, the Centre trains more than 250 students each year, in a range of courses including a Master in Humanitarian Action, a Certificate in Quality Project Management, and 10 intensive short courses covering topics including protection, negotiation and addressing sexual violence. 

The Centre carries out key research into under explored issues within the humanitarian sector, including migration in Europe and the impact on the health of those affected, the use of drones to deliver aid or monitor population movements and the benefit of using health innovations within healthcare in crisis settings. Studies have been conducted in the most challenging environments: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Syria.

The Centre also prides itself on being a space, where our diverse student body and researchers can speak openly and freely, and reflect on their own practice. Our online and face-to-face debates tackle sensitive topics and allow for frank and open discussions. 

Back in 1998, thanks to the University of Geneva, several international organisations and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a Pluri-faculty teaching Programme for Humanitarian Action – PPAH, was born, the first of its kind.  The objective of this visionary programme was to offer high-level, continuous education for humanitarian practitioners. 

In 2004, the programme evolved further under the auspices of the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and was re-named PIAH – Interdisciplinary Programme in Humanitarian Action. PIAH offered a wider course programme, including a Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action, in partnership with two new strategic partners, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland.

In 2008, the name was changed to CERAH – Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action, and continued to expand its course offer by adding a Diploma, Certificate and various Executive Short Courses. 

In 2020, we evolved further and became known as the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies. We used 2020 – a challenging year for everyone due to the COVID19 pandemic – as a foundation to learn and build on our experience of distance learning and research collaboration, to assess what further transformations are needed to increase access and availability of our courses and research to frontline humanitarian practitioners and organisations. 

On this anniversary occasion the Centre would like to pay tribute to two of the individual founding Members who helped transform an idea into reality back in 1998: Prof. Timothy W Harding (Faculty of Medicine, Unige) and Prof. Jean-Jacques Wagner (Faculty of Sciences, Unige). 

Looking to the future, the Centre is proud of its achievements to date and is ambitious about its future. The Centre Director, Professor Karl Blanchet, shared with us his thoughts: 

“We are now standing on the shoulders of giants who had the vision and tenacity to set up an academic centre specializing in humanitarian studies in the middle of the global humanitarian capital. We have come a long way since 1988, but I like to think that, with humility and humanity, we can all continuously learn and share our knowledge with the professionals working with affected populations”. 

Our President of the Board of Directors, Professor Alessandro Monsuti, also reflected on his time with the Centre: “I have been involved in the activities of the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies, in its various versions, for 20 years. It has been a privilege to witness the continuous interaction and conversation between academic thinking and humanitarian action. Year after year, the participants and instructors have shared their views, conducted open discussions, and confronted their own experiences. They form today a worldwide community who share common values”.

For more information or to request interviews with Prof. Karl Blanchet please contact the Communications team: