Humanitarian Action in the 21st Century: Challenges and Dilemmas



This unique three-day course will explore three key challenges confronting humanitarian action today: forced migration, climate crisis and access to medicines. Through a combination of inspiring lectures and interactive case studies, the course will explore emerging ethical dilemmas and current controversies around these issues. Building a bridge between theory and practice, this course will enable participants to tackle the challenges within their own spheres of influence.




Course Director

Rachel Kiddell-Monroe, LL.M,
Professor of Practice, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University;
International Board Director, Médecins Sans Frontières;
General Director, See Change Initiative


2021 Course Faculty

Carol Devine – Médecins Sans Frontières
Els Toreele – UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose (IIPP)
Felipe Carvalho – MSF
German Casas – MSF
James Orbinski – Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, York University
Jason Nickerson – MSF
Jessica Farber – SeeChange Initiative
María Micaela Jimenez Montejo
Matthew Hunt – School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University
Megan Corbett-Thompson – See Change Initiative
Merith Basey – UAEM North America
Rachel Kiddell-Monroe – McGill University
Renata Reis- MSF
Teresa Bonyo – MSF
Yves Abanda – Symbiosyn
Zolelwa Sifumba – KwaZulu Natal Department of Health



People around the world are facing profound challenges and are living in increasingly fragile contexts. These changing dynamics are forcing us to reflect on how humanitarian assistance is conceptualized and delivered to benefit vulnerable and marginalized populations. Today, over 65 million people have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, violence, climate change or extreme poverty. They are increasingly demonized by society. At the same time, inequitable access to affordable medicines and diagnostics, and significant health impacts of accelerating climate change continue to challenge our ability to deliver meaningful humanitarian assistance. This course aims to provoke reflection and debate of these trends. Participants will delve into the ethical dilemmas these trends present for humanitarian action. With input from thought leaders and community advocates from the humanitarian, environmental and human rights field, participants will use practical examples and case studies to explore the political, human and ethical dimensions of these three global realities.




The course will allow participants to develop skills in:

  • Reflecting critically on contemporary humanitarian action
  • Identifying key ethical dilemmas facing humanitarian practitioners and policy makers
  • Debating humanitarian issues
  • Advocating for meaningful change at grassroots and policy levels

The course will offer the opportunity to network with thought leaders and other participants.


Target Audience

This course will appeal to a wide range of participants from different countries including:

  • Policy makers and ministry officials
  • Researchers, academics and students from all disciplines who are interested in humanitarian issues (law, medicine, ethics, global health, political science, international development and more).
  • Mid-career humanitarian workers, civil society and advocacy groups.

Participants from LMICs and indigenous communities are encouraged to apply.