Urban Humanitarian Emergencies Course

Summer 2021
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

COVID-19 Update: 2020 Workshop Cancelled

Due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Harvard University has cancelled the Urban Humanitarian Emergencies Course scheduled for July 28 - 31, 2020 in Cambridge, MA.

The workshop will be held again in summer of 2021.

We wish you all health and safety in these challenging times.

Course Dates

The Urban Humanitarian Emergencies Workshop will be held at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA From Tuesday, July 28 - Friday, July 31. All days will run from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, except for the final day, which will end at 3:00 PM. 

Course Description

Humanitarian organizations, international agencies and governments serving populations affected by crises increasingly find themselves working in urban settings. Agencies face new challenges and some potential advantages in these complex urban environments and are only just learning how to approach them. These new challenges take many forms: complicated physical layouts, unprepared institutions and infrastructure, and mixed target populations of refugees and underserved locals. Furthermore, the difficulty in NGO coordination with uniquely urban communities as well as local authorities calls for urgent education and training in urban crises.

The Urban Humanitarian Emergencies Course is a four-day course organized by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative via its Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative to train humanitarian professionals on current issues and best practices involved in this ever-expanding and unique area of research and practice. The course faculty is experienced in humanitarian training with on-the-ground experience with humanitarian crises in urban areas.

Walking Activity: The first day of the workshop includes a walking activity in the city of Boston, in which participants will walk to and examine various urban features and vulnerabilities of the city. Participants will be expected to walk several miles over the course of the day. Please let us know if this presents an issue.

Policies and Frequently Asked Questions

For more information and answers to your questions, including payment and cancellation policies, please see a page of frequently asked questions and policies for the course. 

For Registered Participants: Please consult your course Canvas page for a checklist to complete before the workshop begins and further information. You should have received an invitation from Canvas after registration.

Course Fee

Standard Registration Fee: $1850 ($1700 early registration discount available until April 15, 2020)

Please note it is best to complete registration in one session when you are ready to complete payment. Please have your payment details ready.

Course fees will cover the workshop, breakfast, lunch and course materials. Formal confirmation of enrollment will be sent upon receipt of course fees and review of requested registration materials. Please note that registration is not completed and your spot in the workshop is not guaranteed until full payment of the course fee has been received. The Urban Humanitarian Emergencies Course is a self-funded program and all participants are required to pay a registration fee. At this time participation scholarships are not available. Please note that accommodations and travel are not included in the course fee.


Experts in international humanitarian response from universities, NGOs, and non-governmental aid agencies.

Stephanie Kayden, MD, MPH - Director, Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative, Humanitarian Academy at Harvard

David Sanderson, BA (Hons), DipArch, MSc, PhD - Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Architecture, UNSW Australia

Ronak PatelMD, MPH - Director, Urbanization and Resilience Program, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Basic Syllabus

Please note that the following may be finalized differently in 2020. A final syllabus will be sent to participants before the start of the workshop. 

  • Response to Recovery
  • Coordination
  • Communication
  • Assessment and Prioritization
  • Integrated Sectors
  • Finance and Economy
  • Markets
  • Housing and Shelter
  • Delivering Aid
  • Violence and Protection
  • Health
  • Exit Strategy

Intended Audience

NGO and UN workers, national and local government disaster preparedness planners, and others involved in emergency-phase response to disasters and humanitarian crises. Classes will be held in English. To successfully participate in the course, we recommend that participants have at least a B2 English language level (CEFR).

Contact Us

All questions, cancellations, and deferment requests should be submitted to: hhiurbancourse@gmail.com