Fall 2020 - IS 302 E100

Humanitarian Intervention: An Introduction (4)

Class Number: 4990

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Explores how international actors respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as famine, displacement, and genocide. Examines the political, legal, and ethical challenges of humanitarian action by focusing on contemporary cases and on key types of response, from the delivery of aid to sanctions and the use of military force. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.


This course explores how international actors respond to humanitarian emergencies, focusing in particular on emergencies caused by armed conflict and political violence.

We will address the following questions:

  • What are the key political barriers that inhibit effective responses to humanitarian emergencies? How have the interests of states shaped their decisions about intervention?
  • Is armed humanitarian intervention legal?
  • Should armed interventions focus narrowly on the goal of protecting civilians from immediate danger? Or, can the broader goals of regime change and nation-building ever be justified on humanitarian grounds?
  • Has the norm of “Responsibility to Protect” had a significant impact on decisions about intervention? How can this doctrine be strengthened or improved?
  • According to many critics, humanitarian intervention often amounts to a disguised form of imperialism. How have advocates of intervention responded to this concern; and, are their responses convincing?

To gain a better understanding of these issues, we will study a range of important cases of intervention, including: Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Libya.

Course Delivery: This course will combine asynchronous and synchronous elements. Recorded lecture materials will be posted on Canvas. Required synchronous activities and/or discussions, will take place during the course’s scheduled meeting times (Wednesdays, 5:30-9:20pm). These synchronous activities will require you to be online (on Zoom) for approximately one hour on average each week (with some variation); but you are required to be available for synchronous meetings any time during the four-hour class period. I will distribute a more detailed schedule for the synchronous activities in the first week of classes.


  • Short Assignments 15%
  • Participation 10%
  • Essay 25%
  • Group Project* 20%
  • Final Exam (take-home) 30%


*Note: The group project will involve collaboration with other students and it will also include an individually written component. Half of the grade for the group project will be based on the individually written component and the other half will be based on the collaborative elements.

Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.


This course will be delivered via online platforms, such as Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.

Students are required to have a computer, with a microphone, webcam, and speakers. They also must have good access to the Internet.

Microsoft Office is required, and a free version of Office 365 is available to SFU students here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.

Students will be required to upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.



Required readings will be available on Canvas, online, or in the SFU Library’s electronic collection. 

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).