The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is a unique teaching, research and humanitarian exchange platform for humanitarian action. We are a joint Centre of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and the University of Geneva, two internationally renowned centres of academic excellence.
Current and aspiring humanitarian professionals have access to past and latest evidence-based knowledge to better respond to the needs of populations in crisis.
Through research, education, and humanitarian dialogue and exchange, the Centre will strengthen the capacity and practice of humanitarian professionals wherever they work in order to empower them to respond effectively to global humanitarian challenges.
We also aim to contribute to critical reflections on contemporary humanitarianism with the view of bringing positive transformations to the humanitarian system.
We offer a wide range of academic courses and conduct various research projects looking at under developed areas of interest in humanitarian action.
Our courses provide in-depth training on humanitarian topics such as negotiation, protection, planetary health, and addressing sexual violence, as well as project management in humanitarian settings. They are based on an innovative pedagogical model designed for adult education, in order to strengthen the practitioners’ competencies and apply the theoretical knowledge, developed during the courses, directly to their professional environment.
Our lecturers are experts in a wide range of disciplinary fields including public health, economics, anthropology and management, to reflect the variety of competencies required of humanitarian workers in the field. As the global landscape changes, we adapt our courses to deliver the support and skills needed for humanitarian professionals on the frontline.
Through interactive, dynamic and participative interdisciplinary approaches, students increase their capacity to develop effective humanitarian strategies, supporting the plight of populations affected by armed conflict, disasters or social exclusion.
We enhance their learning by:
Our students describe the teaching experience as ‘intense and challenging’: they are encouraged to reflect on their practical experiences and research, deconstruct their preconception, and use key learnings to sharpen their skills for ongoing development.
The great diversity of student profiles is possible thanks to funding for a significant number of scholarships granted through the Centre.
Our interdisciplinary research projects foster critical analysis of the humanitarian sector to encourage reflection on professional practices as well as the politics of humanitarianism and humanitarian organisations.
We also promote critical reflection of the humanitarian system through research projects developed by our researchers on current issues either in the field or in collaboration with major humanitarian organisations and academic centres. Current research includes analysis of the impact of attacks on healthcare, migration to and within Europe and the health implications, and health systems thinking in humanitarian settings.
In the 1970s and 1980s, some of the larger humanitarian organisations based in Geneva started offering operational training for humanitarians. A decade later, in the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide, the Balkans war and the ensuing mass mobilisation of new humanitarian actors, the need to ‘professionalise’ the sector became evident.
1998 – Back then, there were no academic courses on humanitarian action, but thanks to the University of Geneva, several international organisations and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a Plurifaculty Programme for Humanitarian Action – PPAH, was born. The Plurifaculty Programme for Humanitarian Action was the first iteration of the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies. The objective of this visionary programme was to offer high-level, continuous education for humanitarian practitioners.
2004 – The programme was radically transformed under the impulse of the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and 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 the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland.
2008 – The partnership between the University of Geneva and the IHEID changed the programme’s name into CERAH – Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action. In 2012, the Centre expanded its course offer by adding to the Master DAS, CAS and Executive Short Courses. In 2017, the Centre launched its Humanitarian Encyclopedia research project, and in 2018 it celebrated its 20th anniversary.
2020 – We have evolved further and became the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies. The name reflects a new vision for the Centre: we used 2020 – a challenging year for everyone – as a foundation to learn and build on our experience of distance learning and research collaborations, to assess what further transformations are needed and feasible to increase access and availability of our courses and research to frontline humanitarian workers and organisations.
The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies was created in its present form in 2008 by an agreement between The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and the University of Geneva (UNIGE).
The Supervisory Committee
It is the general supervisory body. The Rector of UNIGE and the Director of IHEID sit on the Committee. The Committee’s main tasks are:
- Nominate the president of the centre’s Board of Directors on the basis of a recommendation from the board;
- Monitor the application of the strategy proposed by the board, and ensure that it falls within the framework of the general strategy of the University and the IHEID;
- Approve the annual budget and accounts in addition to the annual report.
The Board of Directors
It is the strategic governing body. It is composed of representatives from UNIGE, IHEID and several humanitarian organizations. In addition, two eminent individuals are co-opted to serve on the board. Its tasks are:
- Guide and monitor the centre’s strategy;
- Identify, orient and ensure the implementation and internal oversight of teaching, research and other activities in order to achieve the Centre’s objectives;
- Develop and transmit course regulations to the competent authorities and oversee their application;
- Deal with conflicts involving students through a Mediation Commission established within the Board.
Current Members of the Board of Directors