Building a Better Response Launches New Module

New Certification: Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is proud to announce the release of the innovative online course addressing humanitarian coordination within areas undergoing extreme conflict and disaster.

This module was designed in response to the growing scale and scope of recent humanitarian emergencies, many of them complex combinations of natural disasters and human conflict. The United Nations has reported that humanitarian actors provided services for more people in 2016 than they had since the UN was founded. Protracted crises now last longer and require multidimensional responses, which in turn necessitates that humanitarian staff have sufficient knowledge of the characteristics and challenges complex emergencies entail. This new e-learning aims to address these training needs for responders to complex disasters.

The certification, offered by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University in partnership with International Medical Corps and Concern Worldwide and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, employs simulation-based learning to guide participants through an interactive experience that builds their knowledge about humanitarian coordination.

The online course on complex humanitarian emergencies is an addition to the Building a Better Response project. The new course describes complex humanitarian emergencies, elements of coordination among humanitarian actors during such crises, and the challenges in responding to a complex humanitarian emergency. The online courses offered by Building a Better Response are free and flexibly designed to be taken in any order, can be accessed through hand-held devices, and the new course is optimized to stream for low bandwidth usage.

First released in 2014, the Building a Better Response e-learning is available in Arabic, English, and French. To date, over 30,000 users have registered for the e-learning from over 190 countries.

In addition to the newly launched training on complex humanitarian emergencies, the online course offers learning on topics such as international humanitarian coordination, humanitarian funding and planning, and international law and humanitarian standards. Learners who successfully complete the online course will be granted a certificate from the Humanitarian Academy at Harvard. The online tool can be accessed at

Lessons from the New Module