About Us


The mission of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) is to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by advancing the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide. HHI fosters interdisciplinary collaboration at Harvard University in order to:

  • Improve the effectiveness of humanitarian strategies for relief, protection, and prevention;
  • Instill human rights principles and practices in these strategies;
  • Educate and train the next generation of humanitarian leaders.


In response to the growing interest expressed by seasoned field practitioners and professionals in studying key issues in humanitarian response, a program on humanitarian crises and human rights was established at Harvard in 1999. By 2002-2003, it was evident that the demand for technical expertise and educational and training opportunities, from NGO partners, professionals, and graduate students, was overwhelming the capacity of the existing program.

In 2005, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative was established as a University-wide academic and research center, supported by the Office of the Provost, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the participation of faculty from:

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • John F. Kennedy School of Government
  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard Law School
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
  • Major Harvard-Affiliated Medical Centers:
    • Brigham and Women's Hospital
    • Children's Hospital Boston
    • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

HHI has 35 faculty collaborators, 16 internal and external fellows, and a network of undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in research and policy development in the humanitarian arena. For more information about HHI's partners, visit the Our Partners page.


Over the past six years, HHI has built and expanded a range of educational and research programs to promote understanding of humanitarian crisis as a unique contributor to global health problems. Humanitarian crises include recent wars and conflict-laced disasters that involve civilian populations as indirect or deliberate targets, violate established norms of war, and impede global progress. Humanitarian crises also include large-scale natural disasters that lay bare issues of environmental degradation and disregard for vulnerable populations, and are often accompanied by disease and famine. Appropriate academic response to these crises requires developing methods to understand and describe these conflicts, designing means to evaluate and assess the impact of humanitarian interventions, and preparing the next generation of engaged and effective humanitarian actors.


For recent press on HHI's faculty and research, please visit our HHI in the Media page.