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Humanitarian Action: Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights

Toby Greenfield headshot"I could have never learned in a classroom what I did in this program about the humanitarian field.  The access to practitioners from various organizations during the course week was invaluable and the opportunity to intern for the UN will absolutely help me start my career. "—Toby Greenfield, University at Albany


The Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights Fellows track offers a unique opportunity to learn firsthand how humanitarian assistance is formulated and implemented.  The program focuses on pressing humanitarian issues, including crises, international migration, refugees and resettlement, and the rights of vulnerable children.  Fellows selected for this program gain both academic and experiential perspectives on how intergovernmental institutions, public-private partnerships and nongovernmental organizations shape humanitarian action policy.

The program combines internships at humanitarian action stakeholder organizations in Geneva, with an intensive course on humanitarian action issues. It is open to graduate students attending schools of public administration, education and leadership, public policy, human rights and more. We also accept a limited number of exceptional undergraduate students.

Program Structure

The Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights track includes a placement in a humanitarian action policy internship (12 weeks preferred, shorter internships 10-12 weeks available), and the required five-day intensive course. Fellows belong to a cohort of other students from a diverse range of backgrounds. To apply to be a Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights Fellow with the Duke Global Policy (DGP) Program in Geneva, please refer to the admissions procedure.

“The Geneva Program provided me with an unique insight into the humanitarian community that I couldn't get from anywhere else. The opportunity to network with expert professionals and the experience of living in Geneva made for the experience of a lifetime.”—Aden Hamza, University of Western Ontario

About the Policy Internship

All Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights Fellows work in a Geneva-based policy internship, where they gain useful experience contributing to program and policy-making in humanitarian action, crises, human rights, and human security. Some Fellows help to prepare policy briefings and meetings; others conduct gap-filling research. From building databases and interviewing stakeholders to synthesizing literature and putting together presentations, fellows contribute to the work of their placement sites.

In the past, students have interned at a wide range of NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, including:

  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • UN Development Programme (UNDP)

Internship Length

Interns are encouraged to make as long of a commitment as possible to the program. Longer internship availability makes students more competitive during the internship search process, and maximizes the amount of time an intern can learn from and contribute to their placement. Organizations where our HA track fellows intern require students to have longer availabilities for their summer internship.  More details on our Internships page.

Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights Track minimum program commitment:

  • Minimum Commitment: 11 weeks (10 week internship + 1 week course)
  • 13 week commitments are preferred by internship organizations whenever possible (12 week internship + 1 week course)

About the Course

Students posing in GenevaThe course, PubPol 860.04, will run May 27 – May 31, 2019 . Please check back for final dates. For participants, this means taking a break from the internship to participate in the course. 

The course provides participants with a thorough introduction to international humanitarian assistance, human rights, and human security. It explores how the international community can better respond to humanitarian crises such as the influx of refugees in Europe, HIV-AIDS in Africa, or ongoing civil conflict in countries such as Sudan. It examines the importance of both cooperation and collaboration on a global scale by organizations such as the International Red Cross, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), and development organizations. See a sample course syllabus from 2018.

During the course week, the program also facilitates additional evening events, such as a program reception, mentorship dinners, and networking events.

“Candid discussion and the exchange of views with experts and professionals was unparalleled.” —Md Moin Uddin, International Christian University

About the Faculty Instructor

Amy E. Hepburn (Duke MPP'01)The course is led by Amy E. Hepburn (Duke MPP'01), a policy professional who has researched, published, and programmed extensively on issues affecting children in complex humanitarian emergencies, including armed conflict and HIV/AIDS in the Balkans, Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Republic of Georgia. Her clients include international NGOs, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in Geneva, the United States Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development.

Her research and programming interests include the education and holistic care of children in complex humanitarian emergencies-- particularly those orphaned by HIV/AIDS in eastern and southern Africa and/or affected by armed conflict. Hepburn co-directed the Duke University Graduate Program on Global Policy in Geneva, Switzerland from 2001-2005. She currently teaches the Humanitarian Crises, Refugees, and Human Rights course in the Program.

Hepburn is a Senior Research Fellow in the Duke University, Health Inequalities Program and is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs where she teaches on the care of children in complex humanitarian emergencies. Hepburn is also the Executive Director of WomenOne, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating women and girls faced with extreme poverty and cultural barriers. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees with honors from Duke University. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children.