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Humanitarian Affairs Program

Director: Dirk Salomons

11th Floor, International Affairs

The harrowing realities of humanitarian crises provide a strong need for a Program on Humanitarian Affairs that offers both critical reflection and education for practical action. Given the limited success of humanitarian operations, the Program fosters dialogue on the current state of humanitarian affairs and the diverse critiques it has received. It does so by placing humanitarian affairs in the broader development and geo-political context.

The overarching goal of the Humanitarian Affairs Program is to improve the quality of humanitarian action in the field through improved training of students and humanitarian agency staff, the promotion of better linkages between practitioners and theorists, and the enhancement of the role of recipients in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs set up to assist them.

Building on the different centers of expertise at Columbia University, the Program seeks to promote inter-disciplinary research, education, and training at the university as well as in the field. It especially focuses on the experience of the local population and on practical policy, management and implementation problems. Through its research, education and training, the Program thus builds international and local capacities. In addition, it builds bridges among the American humanitarian tradition and its European counterparts. 


The overall aim is to help students obtain the professional skills and insight for working in complex humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters. In their future work, students should be able to use a strong combination of tools and conceptual approaches.


The Program employs four central research themes that are currently understudied:

  • Local voices
  • Management of International Organizations
  • Implementation
  • Bridging humanitarian traditions and research in Europe and the US

Program on Humanitarian Affairs

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