Call for MSc thesis research on humanitarian responses to Covid-19.

Sociology of Development and Change of Wageningen University, in collaboration with the platform for humanitarian knowledge exchange (KUNO), seeks to explore the impact of the Covid-19 crisis for humanitarian action and crisis response. This interest has multiple angles. First, the Corona crisis impacts on running operations in the various crisis areas in the world. For instance, travel restrictions, the closing of borders and health considerations for humanitarian staff make that access to many humanitarian spaces is limited. Second, existing humanitarian crises are simultaneously affected by Covid-19, adding to and exacerbating challenges of aiding disaster affected people. Thirdly, Covid-19 and its responses may present crises in the making that will emerge in the near future, by the cumulative effects of loss of livelihoods, economic downfall, and the political tensions and conflict that may follow this, etc.   

We are interested in the ways humanitarian endeavors address the restrictions and challenges posed by Covid-19, and to what extent the practices, policies, and technologies of humanitarian actors are effective in maintaining operational presence, and allow adaptation to the Corona crisis and its effects.

Students are invited to share initial interests and suggest specific themes for study. Aim is to combine insights in the effects of the ongoing Corona crisis on the humanitarian field from a multidisciplinary perspective, and to anticipate how the responses to these challenges and opportunities may affect the future of humanitarianism.

Topics of interest may include:

  • Technology and remote control: how do aid actors consider to remain or become operational in the Covid-19 affected contexts?
  • Social distancing and field relations: how does Covid-19 affect the relation between aid givers and beneficiaries? 
  • Windows of opportunity: to what extent does the current crisis present opportunities for radical change in the humanitarian field?
  • Localization: the current closing of humanitarian space stresses the relevance of the localization agenda (the strengthening of humanitarian response capacity in the global south). How do aid actors consider Localization in times of Corona?
  • Humanitarian agendas: to what extent does Covid-19 present a shift in mandates, concerns or room for maneuver for aid actors.  

This is a good opportunity to engage with a multidisciplinary group of humanitarian studies researchers and to explore the challenges and possibly more structural changes that come out of Covid-19 adaptations. The collaborative effort allows for interaction with peers and practitioners in this process, for instance via blogs on the KUNO website. At the end of the process relevant insights will be collected by KUNO and shared with interested parties. We aim to jointly publish an outcome of this combined effort at the end of this year. 

If you are interested in joining us, you can send an expression of interest and initial topic, or more general questions, to and   

Possible timeline

  • May-June: selection of students & defining of topics and preliminary research questions. 
  • June-July: desk research, research proposals.
  • July-August: data gathering and online interviews.
  • August-October: Writing report & presentation of results with KUNO.

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