How CERAH Came About

The creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863 made Geneva the centre of humanitarianism.

Geneva is home to the headquarters of organisations such as the ICRC, MSF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNHCR, IOM and WHO as well as offices of OCHA, UNICEF, UNDP, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. Geneva thus offers unique access to the most important actors in the humanitarian field. 

In the 1970s and 80s, some of the larger humanitarian organisations offered operational training for humanitarian actors. Yet by the next decade it had become clear that there was a need for complementary academic training. In response, the University of Geneva established the Multifaculty Programme for Humanitarian Action (PPAH) in 1998, with the support of several faculties, humanitarian organisations and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The initial objective was to offer high-level, continuing university education for humanitarian leaders to meet their training needs, while fully exploiting the advantages of Geneva's international and humanitarian vocation. For six years, PPAH offered a university diploma in humanitarian action.

Henry Dunant

Henry Dunant - International Red Cross museum

In 2004, with the encouragement of the Rectorate of the University of Geneva and in partnership with the Institute for Development Studies (IUED), the programme was radically transformed. The re-named Interdisciplinary Programme in Humanitarian Action (PIAH), offered several types of courses, including a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Humanitarian Action in collaboration with the ICRC and MSF Switzerland.

In 2008, the University of Geneva joined forces with the Graduate Institute (IHEID) to create the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH). Changes at the international level as well as in the academic and humanitarian fields led the Geneva university community to envisage a more ambitious role for CERAH in the years to come. This new phase in CERAH's history sees a wider range of post-graduate qualifications and the development of a research portfolio.