CCGL9036 Global Issues

Dilemmas of Humanitarian Intervention

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

What is humanitarian intervention? Is it ever a good idea? Who does the intervening and on whose behalf? In order to explore these questions, this course adopts a broad understanding of humanitarian intervention, focusing primarily on the post-World Wai II period. We will look at a range of actors that act for humanitarian purposes; not only states, but also non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intergovernmental organisations, and global businesses. We will also consider a range of forms of intervention; including armed intervention, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, human rights promotion, and international criminal justice system.

Thus, the course focuses on the emergence of humanitarian intervention, its contemporary nature, successes and failures, moral challenges, and ways forward. The course examines dilemmas generated by great power politics, the tension between state sovereignty and global humanitarian action, and resource constraints in a world of potentially limitless need. The course will equip students to think critically about the possibilities and limits of effective humanitarian intervention and to creatively apply these insights to real-life cases around the world.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and understand humanitarian intervention through an awareness of both historical development and territorial reach.
  2. Use the relevant information about humanitarian intervention to analyze and explain the issues of principle and practice it generates.
  3. Demonstrate an awareness of ways forward for humanitarian intervention in the complex circumstances of the contemporary world.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 26
Tutorials 11
Reading / Self-study 100
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: In-class test 2
Total: 159

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Participation in lectures and tutorials 10
Case study 25
Group project 25
In-class test 40

Required Reading

Short readings are given for the course in general, and, more specifically, for individual tutorial topics (listed in the course guide). Required readings will all be available via Moodle.


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C.J. Fung
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 5223
Email: cjfung@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr N.B. Scicluna
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2393
Email: scicluna@hku.hk