Migration and climate change are two of the most defining issues of our time. While people have always moved to adapt to a changing environment, our awareness and understanding of the environmental drivers of migration have grown significantly over the past few decades. The adverse impacts of climate change are increasingly leading to human mobility worldwide, with significant implications for policy makers in government, NGO and humanitarian organizations and international companies.
The program benefits from a wide network of international partners, in particular United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions and a wide array of academic and research partners that work on human mobility and environmental issues.
The program was approved by the University's Graduate Council in 2021, and launched in Fall 2022.
Webster University has collaborated with experts at our partner organizations to develop a new, groundbreaking curriculum at the nexus of migration, climate change and the environment. This master's degree will offer students a unique opportunity to explore, investigate and understand cross-cutting issues at the forefront of world affairs.
Webster University Geneva is uniquely poised to deliver such a program, given the location of Webster University Geneva Campus just five kilometers from the U.N. District in Geneva, and its longstanding relationship with "Genève internationale".
Students will be embedded in the multilateral context of Geneva throughout their studies — a tremendous advantage for learning and gaining real-world, practical insights. They will be surrounded by diverse international organizations and actors engaged at the forefront of international policy and dialogue regarding migration, displacement, disasters, environment and climate change — as well as with intersecting issues of human rights and sustainable development, for example.
Webster regularly hosts related events and conferences on campus throughout the year, bringing renowned experts and practitioners from across “Geneve Internationale.” Additionally, the International Relations Department organizes customized site visits and professional exchanges, joint projects and the professional links for arranging internship experiences in the International Geneva milieu.
The MA in Migration, Climate Change and the Environment is a 12-course sequence, delivered by a combination of research professors and practitioners who are at the forefront of their field.
Students are required to attend in-person classes on campus.
Webster offers five terms per year (Fall 1 and Fall 2, Spring 1 and Spring 2, and one eight-week Summer term).
The 36 credit hours required for the MA must include the following courses:
- MIGR 5000 Introduction to Migration Studies, Theory and Practice (3 credit hours)
Taught by Dina Ionesco, co-director and lecturer, Migration, Climate Change and Environment, Master Program Geneva Campus (MAMCE) and Dr. Heikki Mattila.
- MIGR 5100 Research Methods and Perspectives (3 credit hours)
Taught by Dr. Lionel P. Fatton, assistant professor of International Relations
- MIGR 5600 Migration, Climate Change, and the Environment (3 credit hours)
Taught by Dina Ionesco (ref. above)
- MIGR 5400 International Migration Law (3 credit hours)
Taught by Dr. Carlo M. Marenghi, lecturer of International Law and Diplomatic Negotiation and by Kristina Touzenis, U.N. senior consultant, lawyer.
- MIGR 6250 Thesis (6 credit hours)
To complete the 36-credit master, all students must also choose:
- Two courses (6 total credit hours) from the Issues Cluster
- Two courses (6 total credit hours) from the Skills Cluster
- Two other course electives (6 total credit hours)
Note that not all elective courses will be offered at all times. Please get in touch with our graduate admissions office to find out which classes are currently running.
Issues Cluster (2 courses)
- MIGR 5580 Migration and Health (3 hours)
- INTL 5580 Politics of Development (3 hours)
- INTL 5600 Area Studies (3 hours)
- INTL 5700 Humanitarian Issues in International Politics: Refugees and Migration (3 hours)
- INTL 5860 Issues in International Politics: Environmental Sustainability Studies (3 hours)
Skills Cluster (2 courses)
- MIGR 5500 International Environmental Law (3 hours)
- HRTS 5600 International Human Rights Law and Organizations (3 hours)
- INTL 5400 International Political Economy (3 hours)
- INTL 5530 International Law (3 hours)
- INTL 5535 International Disaster Law (3 hours)
- INTL 5540 International Organizations (3 hours)
- INTL 5545 The UN in International Politics (3 hours)
- INTL 5585 Food and Water Security (3 hours)
- INTL 5595 Energy Security (3 hours)
- INTL 5590 International Security (3 hours)
Course Electives (2 courses)
Any additional courses from the two clusters above, or any of the following:
- INGO 5600 Principles of Negotiation (3 hours)
- HRTS 5610 International Humanitarian Law (3 hours)
- HRTS 5600 International Human Rights Law and Organizations (3 hours)
- INTL 5300 Field Work (3-6 hours)
- INTL 5500 Professional Seminars (1-3 hours)
- INTL 6500 Internship (3 hours)
- Any other graduate elective course (3 hours)
A Program Directly Embedded in “International Geneva”
Geneva offers an exceptional stage for learning, as it is a world-renowned hub for multilateral action, bringing together United Nations, international, diplomatic, civil society, academic and local actors. The United Nations is comprised of 193 Member States, of which 181 permanent missions of Member States are accredited to United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Webster campus location just 5km from the UN and other international organizations, with a teaching team that is comprised of academics as well as representatives from the diplomatic scene, will allow students to directly interact with the main actors of the nexus of those involved in migration, climate change research, humanitarian disaster relief and activism to minimize environmental degradation.
The Human Mobility Agencies
- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. IOM as the UN Migration Agency has a structure and full program of work on migration and climate change.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.
- The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is the world's definitive source of data and analysis on internal displacement, as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
- The United Nations Network on Migration aims to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States. In carrying out its mandate, the Network prioritizes the rights and well-being of migrants and their communities of destination, origin and transit.
- The Start-Up Fund for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (or Migration MPTF) was called for by the Global Compact on Migration, adopted by the General Assembly in December 2018. It is a UN financing mechanism primarily to assist Member States in their national implementation of the Global Compact.
- The Platform on Disaster Displacement is a State-led initiative working towards better protection for people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change as a follow up to the Nansen Protection Agenda.
- Created in 2007, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is a state-led, informal and non-binding process, which helps shape the global debate on migration and development and has already taken on the question of migration and climate change.
- A majority of the members of the Task Force on Displacement (TFD) under the UNFCCC have their headquarters in Geneva which will allow a unique exposure to the work of the TFD which is the main vehicle for the implementation of migration commitments in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
- In addition to international organizations, Geneva also offers a dynamic web of local associations dedicated to working with migrants and refugees that also offer invaluable experience on local level action.
The Environmental Organizations and Players
- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that produces a yearly State of the Climate Report and provides the framework for international cooperation on meteorology, climatology and operational hydrology.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change that through its assessments determines the state of knowledge on climate change.
- The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Europe Office that covers 56 countries in the pan-European region and is hosted in the Geneva Environment House.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) composed of both government and civil society organizations, the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
- The Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm conventions, as well as the UNEP-part of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat are served by a single Secretariat based in Geneva.
- The water, climate change and migration are object of increasing attention in the work of think-tanks based in Geneva, such as the Geneva Water Hub. This a global center of the University of Geneva specialized in hydro-diplomacy and hydro-politics also acting as the Secretariat of the Group of Friends on Water and Peace including several diplomatic missions.
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments.
- Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a mechanism developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- The Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy in Situations of Displacement (GPA), is a non-binding framework that provides a collaborative agenda for concrete actions to ensure that all refugees and displaced people enjoy safe access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy services by 2030. The GPA strives to remove barriers to energy access in humanitarian settings.
- The UN Environment Management Group (EMG) is the United Nations (UN) Environment Management Group (EMG) is a system-wide coordination body on environment and human settlements.
- The Geneva Environment Network (GEN) is a cooperative partnership of over 100 environmental and sustainable development organizations.
- The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the UN. Since 1979, 16 international legally binding instruments — five conventions and 11 protocols — have been developed within UNECE on air pollution, environmental impact assessment, industrial accidents, transboundary waters and public participation.
- A wide range of non-governmental organizations with a focus on environment are based in Geneva’s Environment House including CARE, Geneva 2030 Ecosystem, Earth Justice, Bio-vision, The Green Growth Knowledge Partnership (GGKP), the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA), The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) or Zoï Environment Network a non-profit organization that helps build sustainable societies through informed analysis, visual communication, design and action.
Related Organizations in the Space of Humanitarian, Development and Human Rights
- The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which is the world's largest humanitarian network.
- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the United Nations body established in December 1991 by the General Assembly to strengthen the international response to complex emergencies and natural disasters.
- The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is an inter-agency forum of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners founded in 1992, to strengthen humanitarian assistance.
- The Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW), co-chaired by OCHA and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), provides a unique forum for humanitarian networks and partnerships to meet and address key humanitarian issues.
- The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) convenes partners and coordinates activities to create safer, more resilient communities. UNDRR sits at the center of the UN system for reducing risk, convening and coordinating risk reduction activities towards a more resilient future.
- The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is a biennial multi-stakeholder forum established by the UN General Assembly to review progress, share knowledge and discuss the latest developments and trends in reducing disaster risk.
- The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The World Economic Forum's Risk Report continues to rank environmental threats at the top of the list and its Strategic Intelligence unit explores and monitors migration issues as forces driving transformational change across economies, industries, and global issues.
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights. The Office works on climate change and human rights and explores migration issues form a human rights perspective.
- The International Labor Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919 that brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men.
- The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
A program integrating the major changes brought by the COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound, widespread impact on migrants, refugees and displaced persons. Vulnerable mobile groups affected by the negative impacts of change, environmental degradation and disasters are of direct concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the recovery phase.
The mobility limitations due to COVD-19 have added an additional layer of vulnerability to people already at risk, by impeding them to resort to migration. We see trapped populations in hazard prone areas, people in unsustainable urban settings, people depending on agriculture and land and people depending on seasonal migration. We see that the lack of mobility creates more long-term risks for the people who are exposed to disasters, environmental and climate change risks.
In line with lessons learnt during the COVID pandemic, our program will consider joint actions to better study and connect health and environmental global challenges.
Nov. 10, 2021: Renewing Multilateral Cooperation and Humanitarian Action to Protect Migrants, Refugees and Vulnerable Populations in a Time of Pandemic (Internal Displacement, Climate Change and Other Contemporary Challenges)
Dec. 3, 2021: Spotlight Seminar on Refugee Images in the Media
Feb. 28, 2022: "People on the Move" at the FIFDH
Dec. 8, 2022: Graduate Admissions Open House
A detailed accreditation statement for can be found on the main Webster University news website.
In addition to the accreditations listed below, each of which conducts an external and independent audit and assessment of the quality of our university and/or specific programs, Webster University Geneva has a comprehensive, campus-wide system that covers all aspects of our academic activities and operations, including teaching, research and service.
See our Quality Assurance page for further details.
Webster University carries full institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The HLC is the highest-level accrediting agency for universities based in the north-central region of the United States. Webster University has maintained this accreditation since 1925, and this institutional accreditation applies for all locations where the University offers programs, worldwide. Students at Webster University Geneva therefore earn the same degree that is awarded in the United States.
Webster University is pleased to announce that in 2018 it has earned its re-accreditation from the HLC. This process included a site visit to the Geneva campus by a member of the HLC review team.
The next Reaffirmation of Accreditation will take place in 2027-28.
Our Business and Management programs offered by the Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University Geneva are accredited by ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs). This accreditation supports our efforts in assuring quality standards and assurance of learning.
Our Master of Arts in Counselling is fully accredited by the Swiss Association for Counselling (referred to as Association Suisse de Conseil, in French and Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Beratung, SGfB, in Swiss German). This allows our master’s students to pursue the status of Members in Training SGfB, until receipt of their degree when they will become Active Members SGfB.
Other affiliations and memberships
The Department of International Relations is an Academic Institutional Member (AIM) of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).
This membership provides access to over 300 recordings and transcripts of major conferences and Chatham House's formidable archives. Chatham House also offers corporate roundtables and forums for debate among senior business figures, which are open to students. In addition to the bimonthly magazine The World Today and the refereed journal International Affairs, it proposes open tickets for four IR students for each of its 100+ members events per year, and access to the Chatham House library. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students benefit from a 20% discounted student membership.
Webster University Geneva is also a member of the UN Academic Impact Initiative.
Students enrolling in the program will be able to:
- Understand and recognize the key characteristics of migration in the context of climate change and environmental degradation.
- Know the main terminology used in this context, including migration, displacement and planned relocation.
- Recognize the different forms of slow onset processes of environmental change that influence migration and different types of relevant policy intervention.
- Recognize the different typologies of disasters and different types of mobility forms related to disasters and different types of relevant policy interventions.
- Understand the diverse data challenges related to the study of migration in the context of climate change and environmental degradation and comprehend different methodologies and approaches to data collection and analysis.
- Identify legal frameworks, bodies of law including environmental law, international and regional human rights instruments of relevance to the protection of people moving in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation.
- Place the issue of migration climate change and environmental degradation in the current broad development, humanitarian, environment, migration and refugees, disaster risk reduction, human rights, resource management, urban, health and food agendas.
- Identify key contemporary debates and initiatives regarding the protection of people moving in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation.
- Comprehend available tools, policies, practices, programs and processes of relevance.
- Connect the issue of migration and climate change to other contemporary global challenges in health.
- Gain the ability to plan, organize and carry out research projects on migration, climate change, disasters and environmental degradation as well as the skills necessary to convey theoretical knowledge of this topic to a variety of different audiences.
- Recognize main actors and key players of relevance.
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