This is the first MA aimed at investigating the interactions between humanitarian action and peacebuilding, merging knowledge and know-how developed in both fields to promote better targeted initiatives and comprehensive responses. This MA is also one of the first Masters working on the principle that long-term and sustainable peace can only be built by local and national actors and initiatives. Therefore culture sensitivity, community initiatives and local responses are at the core of the learning process.
To explore the links between humanitarian action and peacebuilding and learning from field practices, the MA relies on three distinctive features brought together to propose a unique and innovative learning approach:
- Based entirely on online delivery to create a web-based learning community, the MA offers a flexible and diverse method based mostly on collaborative work. A large portion of the learning activities are based on discussion and confrontation of ideas and practices to enhance peer to peer learning and discourse.
- The workplace is intended to be the main learning environment, to allow learners from all countries to engage with this global community of reflective practitioners. As a result, case studies, action research and hands-on exercises with live and field-based problems, working with communities, practitioners and agencies are an integral part of the programme.
- Based on innovative multicultural and multidisciplinary approaches, the MA uses studies and theories from social sciences, peace and conflict studies, humanities, management, political sciences, law, urban planning and architecture. It also merges practice-based knowledge produced by field practitioners and research outputs from practice-oriented scholars. The diversity of learners and lecturers creates a unique opportunity to merge and discuss different cultural paradigms, perceptions and intellectual traditions.
This part-time programme is usually studied over 30 months. However, you are able to take up to 5 years to complete the necessary credits or to finish it in 24 months if you can take time out of work to complete the programme.
It is constituted of three core modules; three issue-based modules as well as a research skills module as preparation for the dissertation.
The three core modules are:
From Conflict Sensitivity to Conflict Transformation
This module equips you with a sound understanding of the complexity of conflicts, including of conceptual frameworks and theoretical debates related to humanitarian action and peacebuilding in complex environments. It provides you with the analytical tools to understand the contexts of conflict and to assess the challenges faced as practitioners.
Culture-Sensitivity in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings
It is agreed that emergencies, rehabilitation and peacebuilding programmes need to be embedded in local cultures. How can we be truly 'culture sensitive'? If this principle is clear, the practicalities remain confusing and difficult to put into operation. Culture sensitivity requires knowledge, skills and competences but also an attitude towards others. This module allows you to understand and deal with core issues related to culture, communication, trust building and culture-sensitivity. You also to explore issues related to cultural dimensions such as gender, displacement and identity.
Leadership, Team and Self-management in Conflict Settings
You will critically examine some of the personal skills (or 'soft skills') needed by professionals working in humanitarian action and peacebuilding. In particular, the module focuses on leadership skills, team management and self-management skills. The session on self-management is more specifically centred on stress and stress management and introduces you to a number of techniques that can be applied for self-support, but also to support peers and members of communities in conflict-affected countries.
A PGCert in Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding is also offered for those not wishing to undertake the full MA. It consists of the three core modules.
The three issue-based modules are:
Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Programmes in Urban Conflicts
Focusing on urban spaces becomes increasingly important for the efficiency of humanitarian actions, but presents new challenges as humanitarian and development traditions are usually focused on 'open spaces' and rural environments. In urban conflicts, all lines are blurred and programming will need to take that into account. Conflicts particularly have an impact on the way people produce, understand and inhabit spaces and places. Rebuilding some social links and establishing communities in locations will become one of the key elements in conflict transformation and humanitarian programmes. Through action research methods, issues related to urban settings and specificities of humanitarian projects can be investigated.
Protection of Civilians in Conflict and Post-conflict Settings
This module reviews the critical issues related to the protection of civilians in conflict and post-conflict contexts by exploring different conceptual and operational frameworks. In its second part, the module focuses on the planning and implementation of protection activities and offers you the opportunity to apply different tools to concrete situations. The module concludes with a discussion on community-based protection strategies, including unarmed civilian protection.
Post-Conflict Stabilisation and Recovery
This module explores the different dimensions of post-conflict stabilisation and recovery, with a specific focus on restoration of governance and rule of law, justice and reconciliation. It specifically looks at the role of different actors, involved at different levels and in different capacities in the above mentioned processes. The second part of the module focuses on programming tools in post-conflict contexts, and introduces in a critical and non-prescriptive manner the human rights-based approach, as well as the human security-based approach to stabilisation and peacebuilding, presenting principles relating to human rights and human security in terms of potential operational standards for the planning, implementation and evaluation of interventions.
Note that one of the six modules could be replaced by an independent study, should you wish to investigate a specific issue in depth. Each of these six modules is accessible to associated students and can be studied individually.
The research component is constituted of:
Research Methods and Dissertation/Practice-based Final Work
The dissertation is a large piece of work that enables you to explore an issue or theme in depth. The dissertation is a self-driven work, where the supervisor plays the role of advisor, supporter and questioner.
Teaching and learning
This programme favours supportive active learning approaches centred on electronic delivery of content and active student engagement. It is based on self-led learning and strong interactive teaching tools as much on peer-to-peer as on tutors’ mentoring. This approach to the teaching and learning strategies are established to learn from the workplace, using practical cases either through action-research or through case studies; particularly in 'learning by doing', 'self-reflection' and 'action testing of theories'. It allows you to develop new knowledge based on the specifics of humanitarian action and peacebuilding, to improve related practices and to reflect and acquire attitudes and personal competences.
UNITAR and Brookes have considerable experience in delivering humanitarian education directly to humanitarian actors in field operations. Insight from previous education programmes in similar settings shows that learners are often under constant stress, working in harsh conditions and commonly have limited access to internet. As a result, a variety of learning tools are applied within each module. In both institutions, students’ approach to enquiry is supported by a range of webinar, tutorials, debates, discussions, case and work-based studies, and interactions with academics, experts and field practitioners.
Approach to assessment
Assessment is designed to examine programme learning outcomes and is intended to demonstrate that graduates possess the competences and knowledge required in practice. In keeping with the course's emphasis on practical application and on learning from the workplace, 100% of the assessment of each module is based on coursework.
Each module contains ongoing assessment through feedback and facilitation of discussions, webinars, and exchange of experiences for the group work, as well as in individual and group tutoring. You are asked to keep a reflective journal each week in which you can assess your learning experience and its relevance to your practice. This reflective journal is compulsory, and commented upon twice during the modules by tutors, but not graded.
The summative assessments include individual and collective assignments to be handed in at the end of each module. Individual assignments for the core modules are the form of personal written essay, which will test your ability to synthesise critical debates, develop a critical argument and apply arguments to field practice. The individual assignment for the issues-based modules is more practical, based on problem-solving or programming issues. The six taught modules will also include a group work assessment, which will comprise reflection on tools or concepts, an individual application of those tools and concepts in work-based experiences, a collective synthesis of the lessons learnt from those experiences and a formulation of guidelines or statements for further practices.
You will be provided with access to Oxford Brookes Virtual Library,
which has a large collection of electronic sources of information. Most
electronic information, including electronic journals, can be consulted
off-campus. All documents necessary for the course (core and optional
readings, videos, podcasts, and so on) will be provided on Moodle.
Consultations with the subject librarian for the widest access to
online resources to students and to digitalise core texts, have already
You will also have access to UN libraries (physical and online
libraries) and access to the UNITAR Community of Practice (COP). UN
libraries constitute a strong network that share expertise, best
practices and resources. These libraries have become important actors
in the Organisation’s information strategy. The UN Libraries are
gateways to knowledge, thought and culture, facilitating the
decision-making process within the Organisation. Since 1946, the Dag
Hammarskjöld Library of the United Nations Secretariat in New York has
arranged for the distribution of United Nations documents and
publications to users around the world through its depository library
system. At present, there are more than 367 United Nations Depository
Libraries in over 136 countries. Students will be able to consult the
material free of charge at any of these depository libraries.
This programme is delivered entirely online. Apart from two webinars per module conducted at a fixed time, all other activities can be conducted in your own time to allow maximum flexibility.
You will need a good internet connection and to login regularly to participate in discussion forums and to conduct group work and online exercises.
As this programme is designed for people who may be working in a location where internet access is intermittent or slow, summaries and recordings will be provided to help you catch up if needed. Multimedia files will only contain optional, not core, materials.
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