Humanitarian diplomacy is persuading decision makers and opinion leaders to act, at all times, in the interests of vulnerable people, and with full respect for fundamental humanitarian principles.
The rapid expansion of the number of humanitarian actors in recent years, working for or with governments at all levels and often in complex situations, makes humanitarian diplomacy increasingly important.
Humanitarian diplomacy aims to mobilise public and governmental support and resources for humanitarian operations and programmes, and to facilitate effective partnerships for responding to the needs of vulnerable people. Humanitarian diplomacy includes advocacy, negotiation, communication, formal agreements, and other measures. It is a field with many players, including governments, international organisations, NGOs, the private sector, and individuals.
The online diploma course in humanitarian diplomacy is offered by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with DiploFoundation. Course faculty draws on leading experts from around the world, as resource people and guest lecturers. The diversity of the teaching team takes account of the importance of the course reaching people from everywhere in the world, from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of values. More details on the course team can be found in the Methodology section below.
This course is currently offered in English, however participants who are more comfortable with French or Spanish will have the option to write and submit some course assignments and the final research paper in either of those languages.
What are the course objectives?
The online course will extend the knowledge base and develop the practical skills of current and future practitioners in humanitarian diplomacy and policy.
To achieve its objectives, the course will:
- Familiarise participants with basic definitions, concepts, actors, and institutions in the field of humanitarian diplomacy.
- Introduce participants to international humanitarian law, the fundamental humanitarian principles, and National Societies’ role as an auxiliary to government.
- Hone the advocacy and negotiation skills of participants.
- Facilitate an international exchange of experiences and knowledge in a safe and supportive online class environment.
- Develop the research skills of participants, and increase their understanding of national and regional humanitarian diplomacy activities.
What will you learn?
- Explain clearly the concept of humanitarian diplomacy and provide examples of humanitarian diplomacy in action.
- List and categorise the main actors and stakeholders in the field of humanitarian diplomacy and describe their roles in particular situations.
- Describe the interplay between relevant international law, including international humanitarian law, and humanitarian diplomacy.
- Explain how to obtain and use an evidence base for humanitarian diplomacy activities
- Describe the role, techniques, and tools of persuasion and advocacy in humanitarian diplomacy.
- Organise a humanitarian diplomacy alliance.
- Prepare an advocacy strategy, taking into consideration the techniques of persuasion and the application of fundamental humanitarian principles.
- Prepare for effective humanitarian diplomacy negotiations, and describe how different humanitarian diplomacy contexts influence negotiation outcomes.
- Analyse case studies of humanitarian diplomacy, identifying goals, actors, methods, challenges, and implementation.
How will you learn?
In this course you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance, and personalised feedback on your classwork, from the course team.
How long will you learn?
The course lasts for 13 weeks:
- 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
- 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
- 4 weeks for the research phase
Who should apply
This course will be of interest to:
- Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society governance, senior management, branch leaders and managers, volunteers, and staff
- IFRC and ICRC staff
- Other humanitarian professionals who need to employ humanitarian diplomacy techniques
Please note that this course is quite demanding in terms of time and commitment, requiring 7 - 10 hours of study time per week. Before you apply, please consider carefully whether you can commit the necessary time in order to complete the course successfully. Where appropriate, please make sure you obtain the endorsement of your line manager to attend this course.
The course consists of 8 modules, as follows:
Module 0 – Orientation to Online Learning: During this short module, participants will be introduced to the online classroom and tools for communication and interaction that they will use during the course. Participants will also be guided through practice exercises and will have the chance to ask questions and request assistance as needed.
Module 1 – Introduction to humanitarian diplomacy: This module defines humanitarian diplomacy, its components, and related concepts. It introduces the IFRC Humanitarian Diplomacy Policy and its four signposts for action. Next, it discusses how humanitarian diplomacy has evolved, and its relevance in current complex operational contexts. The module concludes by looking at the profile of a humanitarian diplomat.
Module 2 – Humanitarian diplomacy toolkit: This module offers a set of tools for understanding, developing, and implementing humanitarian diplomacy activities. These include humanitarian principles, international law, the evidence-based approach, and communication skills. Practically speaking, the toolkit helps humanitarian diplomats engage in debate, argue in favour of their positions, persuade interlocutors, and find creative solutions for overcoming stalemates in policy discussions.
Module 3 – Humanitarian diplomacy actors: This module surveys the evolution of modern humanitarian diplomacy actors. It starts from the creation of what is now the RCRC Movement and its pivotal place in the establishment of non-governmental humanitarian action. It proceeds with an examination of the RCRC Movement’s national and international characteristics, as well as the role of other actors, including national and international NGOs, national governments, international organisations, private entities, and individuals. It also covers the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their additional protocols, and other instruments of international humanitarian law.
Module 4 – Persuasion: This module focusses on persuasion in humanitarian diplomacy. It covers the three fundaments of persuasion: ethos (credibility), logos (rationality), and pathos (emotions). Following this, it looks at the actors involved in persuasion. Who should be persuaded; and who does the persuading? Finally, the module introduces tools and techniques for putting together a convincing argument, publicly or privately.
Module 5 – Advocacy – practical guidance: This module presents a range of practical tools for developing a strong advocacy strategy. It introduces advocacy and how it happens. It explains how advocacy fits into the wider set of skills and activities that make up the humanitarian diplomacy field. It provides methods for identifying and defining an advocacy issue, and offers checklists for credibility and risk. The module presents benefits and challenges of working in partnerships.
Module 6 – Negotiations in humanitarian diplomacy: This module introduces definitions, objectives, and negotiation theory. It looks at the specific features of humanitarian negotiations. The process of negotiation, starting from preparation and strategy, and moving into the actual negotiation, is covered. The module offers case studies of humanitarian negotiation at the multilateral, regional, and national contexts, as well as in crisis and conflict situations.
Module 7 – Humanitarian diplomacy beyond negotiations: Through examination of case studies, this module looks at using humanitarian diplomacy to ensure implementation of a negotiated outcome, demonstrating that diplomacy does not cease with the signature of an agreement. The module covers practical considerations and obstacles to implementation.
Module 8 – Other practical skills in humanitarian diplomacy: Many practical skills are relevant to humanitarian diplomacy, including protocol, drafting, media training, public speaking, and use of social media. The module discusses each of these topics, and also covers monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian diplomacy activities.
Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Tel Aviv University
Former Australian Ambassador and Humanitarian Diplomacy Head, IFRC
Former Head, Regional Delegation for North Africa, International Committee of the Red Cross
Former Secretary of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
This 13-week course in humanitarian diplomacy is conducted entirely online, using Diplo’s online classroom and learning methodology. The course consists of two phases: an interactive online course lasting nine weeks, immediately followed by a four-week research phase.
During the online course phase, reading materials and tools for online interaction are provided through an online classroom. The course is based on a collaborative approach to learning, involving a high level of interaction. Each week, participants read an assigned module text, adding questions and comments as hypertext entries. Lecturers and other participants read and respond to these entries, creating interaction based on the module text.
During the week, participants complete additional online activities including quizzes and group tasks. At the end of the week, participants, lecturers, and guest experts meet online in a chat room to discuss the week’s topic. Please note that due to the spread of course participants across time zones worldwide, scheduled online session times will not fall within working hours for all participants. Some participants will need to attend online sessions during the morning or evening hours.
During the research phase, participants apply their knowledge to analysing a humanitarian diplomacy action or activity. Working individually or in pairs, participants select a topic relevant to their work, country or region, and prepare a 5000-word research paper as the final assignment for the course. Each participant receives individual support and feedback from a tutor throughout this phase.
Research tutoring is provided by an extremely diverse team; some of those involved during the last two courses were:
Sahar Okhovat lives in Sydney, Australia and work as a senior policy officer with Refugee Council of Australia. She is interested in the issues related to forced migration in general and more specifically in the use of immigration detention and deterrence policies.
Timothy McInerny is an Australian calling Tbilisi, Georgia home. Having spent time with civil society organisations, the Red Cross, and the UN, he is currently a global advisor with the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Leila Kibet is an international development professional with years of experience in over seven countries in Eastern Africa. She currently works with the Belgium Red Cross Flanders in Tanzania as a program delegate in the areas of Disaster Management, Disaster Risk Reduction and cash transfer programming and social protection.
Between 2008-2019, Javier Ormeno worked for the Red Cross in emergency operations and coordination around the globe. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Human Rights. He is part of the Theatre of Transformation Academy and is interested in transitional justice, and arts as an advocacy tool for migrant and LGTB+ rights
Participants who complete the course successfully will receive an electronic diploma issued by Diplo and the IFRC.
Applicants must have:
- An undergraduate university degree; or at least two years of work experience in the humanitarian or development field.
- Sufficient English language skills to undertake postgraduate-level studies. NOTE: the longer course assignments and the final research paper may be submitted in French or Spanish.
- Regular internet access; dial-up connections are sufficient, broadband is preferable.
- Sufficient time for online study, which requires seven to ten hours per week.
Fees and scholarships
The course fee is €990 per participant, due upon acceptance into the course.
Throughout 2022, Diplo alumni members are entitled to a special 20% tuition discount in celebration of Diplo’s 20th anniversary.
Discounts are available for more than one participant from the same institution.
A limited number of partial bursaries will be available to selected candidates from developing countries who work or volunteer with their local RCRC National Society, or with other humanitarian organisations. Please indicate if you are requesting a bursary on your application form and provide the name and contact details of a reference person at your National Society or organisation.
Full bursaries are not available for this course.
Apply for a certificate course
Fill out the short form to start your application process for this course. You will receive an instruction email on how to continue.
Please upload the following three supporting documents in English language with your application:
1. A current CV
2. Initial ideas for your research project (300-500 words), keeping in mind that your project should be about a humanitarian diplomacy action which took place (or is currently taking place) locally, nationally, regionally or internationally (refer to the IFRC Humanitarian Diplomacy Policy to better understand what humanitarian diplomacy is about). Please include:
- a brief description of your proposed topic
- your reasons for choosing this topic: why is it important? why is it of particular interest to you?
- your main objectives: what do you hope to learn? who might benefit from the research? what kind of recommendations or lessons might come out of your research?
Please note that you will have the chance to further develop your research project ideas during the course.
3. A motivation letter (maximum 1 page) which includes:
- details of your relevant professional and educational background, including your personal objectives and plans for the future
- reasons for your interest in humanitarian diplomacy
- why you feel you should be selected to participate in this course: how your participation will benefit you, your institution and/or your country
These are required documents and your application will not be considered without them. All supporting documents must be written in English, even if you plan to write your research paper in French or Spanish. Late applications will be considered only if places remain in the course. In case of enquiries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On your application form please do not forget to indicate if you are applying for a partial bursary (provide contact details for a reference person at your National Society or organisation, if so), and whether you wish to write your final research paper in French or Spanish.
Diplo and the IFRC will select up to 30 qualified participants to attend this course. Preference will be given to applicants currently working in the humanitarian diplomacy field. Selected applicants will be notified after the application deadline.
Diplo reserves the right to cancel this course if enrolment is insufficient. In case of cancellation, Diplo will notify applicants shortly after the application deadline. Applicants who have paid an application fee may apply this fee towards another course or receive a refund.