UO Portland class explores aid in conflict and disaster

Aid convoy

From Syria to tsunamis, turbulent times are often when global humanitarian organizations and militaries step in, a process that will be explored in a new UO Portland class this summer.

The UO international studies class, “Humanitarianism, Development, Peace and Conflict,” is available to both community members and as credit to current UO students and will use a case-study approach to examine global conflicts and international humanitarian intervention. It will run June 25 to July 20 and meets from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays at the UO Portland White Stag Block.

“The course looks at the problems of global violent conflict and how the world has worked to address them,” said Nick Macdonald, a UO adjunct instructor and social impact consultant who has worked with international aid agency Mercy Corps. “How can we end war? How do we assist people affected by it?”

Students will explore the history of modern humanitarian efforts, including the creation of the United Nations after World War II, while looking at case studies of past conflicts like those in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Rwanda and examine ongoing violence. They will explore the law of war, peacekeeping, genocide prevention, transitional administrations, human rights and limiting the negative effects of war.

“Violent conflict is an enormous engine that is driving extreme poverty and creating millions of extremely poor people,” said Macdonald, who also helps organizations learn to operate in violent areas of the world.

By the end of the course, students will be able to articulate, justify and criticize their opinions about approaches to poverty reduction, human rights protection and peace-building.

“Understanding why these conflicts are taking place and what tools and approaches are effective in ending them is critical,” Macdonald said. “Perhaps especially for those of us who are citizens of countries with military forces and diplomatic efforts engaging in many places and conflicts around the world, understanding what makes things better and what makes things worse is really important.”

Community members can register for the class through UO Academic Extension. Current undergraduate and graduate students can enroll in INTL 410/510.