Master of Arts in International Relations
Master of Arts in International Relations

Announcing a New Master Program in Migration Climate Change & Environment, opening in Fall 2021.

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 even for international companies. The program will benefit from the collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a wide network of international partners.

Program Details

To respond to these major challenges of our contemporary world, Webster University faculty have collaborated with experts at the International Organization for Migration and at other partner organizations to develop a new, groundbreaking curriculum at the nexus of migration, climate change and the environment. This new master degree will offer students a unique opportunity to explore, investigate and understand these cross-cutting issues at the forefront of world affairs.

The program has been approved by the University's Graduate Council for launch in Fall 2021.  The M.A. will both prepare students for relevant employment opportunities across the public, private and non-governmental professional sectors as well as prepare student-scholars for pursuing further academic work in this domain in a postgraduate or PhD program. 

Webster University Geneva is uniquely poised to deliver such a program, given the unique location of Webster University Geneva Campus, just 5 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”.  In addition, with the launch of this new M.A. Program, the I.R. Department will organize customized site visits and professional exchanges, joint projects and the professional links for arranging internship experiences in the International Geneva milieu.

Required Courses

The 36 credit hours required for the M.A. must include the following courses:

MIGR 5000 Introduction to Migration Studies (3 credit hours)

Taught by Ms. Dina Ionesco, Coordinator of the new M.A., Lecturer in Migration Studies, and Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division at the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

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 Ms. 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, Attaché and Legal Adviser at the Holy See Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other International Organisations

MIGR 6250 Thesis (6 credit hours)

More detail can be found in the course descriptions here.



To complete the 36-credit master, all students must also choose:

Two courses (6 total credit hours) from the Issues Cluster (see list below);

Two courses (6 total credit hours) from the Skills Cluster (see list below); and

Two other course electives (6 total credit hours)


Skills Cluster (choose 2 courses):

From the full list in the University catalog, Geneva campus will offer a rotation of Skills Cluster courses including:

MIGR 5500 International Environmental Law (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Mara Tignino, Senior Lecturer in International Environmental Law, Reader at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, and Lead Legal Specialist of the Platform for International Water Law at the Geneva Water Hub

HRTS 5600 International Human Rights Law and Organizations  (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Elodie Tranchez, Lecturer in International Human Rights Law and Human Rights Officer at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

INTL 5590 International Security (3 credit hours)

Taught by Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, Senior Lecturer in International Security and former Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy (2013-2016) in charge of Operation MARE NOSTRUM, the biggest SAR operation ever organized, which saved over 150'000 human lives

INTL 5530 International Disaster Law (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Christophe Germann, Senior Lecturer in International Disaster Law, Attorney-at-Law at the Geneva Bar, former Visiting Scholar at the Law Schools of the University of Oxford and Birkbeck College, University of London;

INTL 5400 International Political Economy (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Marcello Puca, Lecturer in International Political Economy, and Visiting Lecturer of Political Economy at the University of Bergamo.


Issues Cluster (choose 2 courses):

From the full list in the University catalog, Geneva campus will offer a rotation of Issues Cluster courses including:

MIGR 5580 Migration and Health (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Françoise Maillard, Senior Lecturer in Health Care Management and Head of the Health Care Management Master and Certificates Programs

INTL 5580 Politics of Development (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Jubin Goodarzi, Associate Professor of International Relations, former consultant and political adviser on Middle Eastern affairs for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);

INTL 5700 Humanitarian Issues in International Politics: Refugees and Migration (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Heikki S. Mattila, Senior Lecturer in Refugees and Migration Studies and former consultant for the IOM

INTL 5600 Area Studies (3 credit hours)

Various regional-focused courses, delivered on a rotation basis by Dr. Joseph Marques (Latin America), Dr. Lionel P. Fatton (South and Central Asia), Dr. Oreste Foppiani (Western Europe), Dr. Vicken Cheterian (Central and Eastern Europe) and Dr. Jubin Goodarzi (Africa).


Open Elective Courses (choose 2 more):

Any additional courses from the two clusters above or from the following:

INGO 5600 Principles of Negotiation (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Carlo M. Marenghi

HRTS 5610 International Humanitarian Law (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Oreste Foppiani, Associate Professor of International History & Politics, and Legal Adviser and Political Adviser, Italian Navy Selected Reserve

HRTS 5600 International Human Rights Law and Organizations (3 credit hours)

Taught by Dr. Michel Veuthey, Associate Professor of International Law, Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to monitor and combat human trafficking, President of the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant, and former Vicepresident of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law.

MIGR 6500 Internship (equivalent to 3 credit hours)

Academic internships offers are coordinated between Webster's Career Services office, our professors and partner organizations. Internship options may include the IOM (an official Webster partner), as well as other international organizations and NGOs.  Those who have previously offered internships to Webster students, for example, include the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross (and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), the World Health Organization, UNICEF, as well as local International Missions to the U.N., to name a few.

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.


Geneva as a Migration & Climate Change Hub

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 & 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 – 5 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. IASC
  • 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 is having profound, widespread impacts 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, so 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.

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, programmes 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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