Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings

Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings

Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership at Deakin University. Her research interests are North Korea, civil society, human rights, and disaster response.

Location Deakin University, Burwood, Australia


  • Thanks for the clarification @HaydnBauer and apologies for misinterpreting the ‘anti-white’ comment.

    Great point on branding - makes me recall this Twitter post by researcher Jeff Crisp on UNICEF backpacks:

    Feel free to reach out at any point this trimester if there is a concern you’d like to…

  • @HaydnBauer Jumping in as your unit chair for ADH701. The intention in this unit to consider the humanitarian sector, including the mainstream, Western-based system but also beyond it. I disagree with the notion that recognising local expertise and efforts is somehow ‘anti-white,’ but if you have any concerns about the unit content you are welcome to email me…

  • Hi Wuyika,

    We don't currently operate any kind of alumni group for people who have completed the FutureLearn open course, though we do communicate with alumni from our other programmes such as the Master's of Humanitarian Assistance and the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership. Interesting idea, though!

    For info on Australian NGOs, this may be...

  • Hi Mateja,

    Welcome! One benefit to being a latecomer is you have hundreds of interesting comments to read. I'm not familiar with the three C's, what are they?


  • Hi Kamallendhran,

    This FutureLearn course is the first course from the unit AHL701: The Humanitarian World. Students from our programmes need to complete all five courses of AHL701, as well as other units, to graduate. The number of units depends on the programme. You can find out more on our website,

  • Hi Clifford,

    Glad to hear you are interesting in joining one of our courses! You can find out more about the programmes we offer, application requirements, etc. on our website:

  • @KAMALLENDHRANG Great question. Attackers could believe that aid workers are not impartial and/or neutral - that their aid is favouring one group over another, or that they are acting on behalf of a foreign government.

  • Hi Carol,

    Good question. Working with local communities can help ensure that relief is culturally appropriate, but as you point out depending on the time frame and scale of the emergency sometimes agencies may feel compelled to send more 'generic' aid in the interest of time. However, an understanding of the local context can ensure that aid is indeed...

  • Good question, Nonso. There's no equivalent to the bar in the sense of an exam that individuals must pass to work as a humanitarian, but there are professional associations and qualifications. The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership offers such qualifications, including Master's and Graduate Certificate programmes. The Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance...

  • Hi Eve,

    I'm glad to hear you're interested in learning more about this sector! Taking this course is a great start.

    I'd recommend checking out Irin for journalism related to the humanitarian sector and humanitarian crises - they produce some excellent articles and video content.

    You can learn more about the different...

  • Hi Manuel,

    Good consideration of both risks and needs. Disasters can be compounded - aftershocks, more violence, violence on top of a disaster, etc. so it's important for humanitarians to keep in mind that the situations are dynamic and the risks can change, too.

  • @ValinaPeters I'm so sorry you had to go through these experiences. I think your story is a good reminder that disasters are catastrophic as a whole, but are also made up of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of individuals tragedies and traumas.

    What do you think are the main challenges in getting local populations involved in disaster preparedness in...

  • Hi Mohamed,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the course! I don't think we give certificate for completion of this two week course. We offer other programmes, like our Master's of Humanitarian Assistance and the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership. You can find out more at the links above. I'm happy to answer questions about the programmes.


  • @FatmaIpek A very comprehensive and thoughtful answer! You bring up a lot of great points. If a humanitarian crisis results in a lack of functioning markets, cash won't do people a whole lot of good. There is an increasing use of cash-transfers in humanitarian contexts (though it is still a small percentage of total aid, about 5-6 percent), and studies show...

  • Hi Mohamed,

    Glad you have enjoyed the course! We also offer Master's and Graduate Certificate programmes. You can find out more on our website:

    I teach mainly on the MA programme, but I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about any of our programmes.

  • Hi Carol,

    Your question on prolonging the conflict is really salient. This has been dubbed the 'humanitarian paradox.'

    Let's consider an example of compromising on other principles - North Korea. There is clear humanitarian need. However, humanitarians do not have free choice of aid recipients, and must work with the government to choose project sites....

  • Hi Mohamed,

    Great question. I'll copy the response I gave to a similar query below:

    The Geneva Conventions make up the cornerstone of international humanitarian law, applicable in contexts of war. However, as we can see in multiple contexts around the world, international humanitarian law is not always respected. Humanitarian workers, both local and...

  • Hi Fatma,

    I'm so sorry I missed this! I just realised I didn't respond.

    Normally, this FutureLearn course is accompanied by 4 other courses (which are not free). This trimester we are only offering this free course. The five courses together form one of the core units for our postgraduate programmes - the Master's of Humanitarian Assistance, the...

  • Hi Kristin,

    You bring up a good point about the 'urgency' of a disaster. When sudden crisis or mass violence happens, people can suddenly feel called to act, but when there is long-term conflict or humanitarian need the world seems to notice less. Keeping donor interest in prolonged/forgotten crises is one of the challenges for humanitarian agencies.

  • @SophieWhitham @robinbanks Thanks to you both for sharing! It seems having that personal recommendation or connection can make a big difference. I think refocusing on the actual work that is done, and not repeating photos of starving children over and over, is both less exploitative but also more inspiring for individuals to actually know how their donations...

  • @EvePowell Hi Eve, thanks for sharing your story with us. I think this exemplifies the kind of survival instinct that can kick in during disasters. It's easy to look back later and wish you had done more, or for outsiders to question why people experiencing disasters don't do x, y, or z, but in the moments of chaos it can be difficult to act with the clarity...

  • Hi Sophie, I'd be interested to know why your family chose MSF. Was there something in particular about their organisation that drew you to them? I think it can be so interesting to see how people choose their 'favourite' organisations or causes!

  • Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Hi Robin, I'm still here! I think your point on everyone bringing something to the table no matter their background is really true. In this FutureLearn course, I think the discussion on experiencing disasters in the next step really exemplifies this. It's been fascinating to read everyone's thoughts and experiences from all over the world!

  • @FatmaIpek Hi Fatma,

    I'm curious to know your thoughts on this 'whacky' proposal from Duncan Green of Oxfam. He suggests having a way for individuals to donate directly to people living in poverty. Do you think this would be a good model?

  • @WuyikaKefiyen Thanks for your response, Wuyika. The Cameroonian conflict does not get much attention (or any attention at all!) in mainstream western media, so I think your contributions have been really useful for both myself and the other learners in the course to learn more about the conflict. I will certainly be following the situation. Radicalisation is...

  • @CarolKellas You might be interested in this blog post from Duncan Green of Oxfam. He suggests some 'whacky ideas' for the future of Oxfam, including one where donors can choose to donate directly to people living in poverty.

    As someone that has donated in the...

  • @SophieWhitham Interesting proposition, Sophie! Do you think the principle of independence could still be upheld, or is it worth overriding it for the sake of making things more centralised and efficient?

  • @EvePowell This article from Irin may be of interest. In general, Irin is a great source of humanitarian news:

  • @WuyikaKefiyen Thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm sorry you and those around you have to experience this. What is your outlook for the future? Do you see any pathways for an end or lessening of the conflict?

  • Hi Obinna,

    I could discuss the principles for hours - they're incredibly interesting! How do you think humanitarians should approach neutrality in contexts like the one in your region? Do you think they should speak out against the militia, attempt to negotiate with the militia to secure access, or not engage with either side?

  • Hi Annabel,

    That's great that you're considering a career in the humanitarian field! The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership at Deakin University offers a number of courses for people already working or looking to work in the sector. These include a Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership, Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Health, and Master's of...

  • Lynda, you are absolutely right. Better than saying one type of actor is 'better' than the rest, we can encourage complementarity - what strengths and weaknesses does each type have, and how can we create a mosaic where they work together in a way that exploits their strengths?

  • Hi Annabel,

    The Geneva Conventions make up the cornerstone of international humanitarian law, applicable in contexts of war. However, as we can see in multiple contexts around the world, international humanitarian law is not always respected. Humanitarian workers, both local and international though especially local staff, can face grave security risks...

  • Hi Toni,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sorry you (and so many others) experienced such a terrifying event. Psychological support can be a huge part in rebuilding life and strengthening personal resilience, but as you point out, in many cases it needs to be long term to have an effect. Do you think local organisations are better suited to...

  • Hi Fatma,

    Good point about negative impact - if your actions cause someone harm, it doesn't really matter to them if you're paid or not. You still have to be accountable to this you work with and for.

  • @ZdenkaMaresova Oops, sorry about that! The link seems to be broken now. The ICRC website also has the code of conduct on it, here:

  • Interesting to see that two of your fellow learners specified a dislike for the Oxfam India page - just goes to show how different people can have different opinions! Thanks for the UK link, too!

  • Interesting point about emotion, Ana. Do you (and other learners in this course) think emotions can interfere with delivering impartial aid?

  • Forecasting and preparing for disasters is a very important aspect of humanitarianism that can sometimes get forgotten. The concept of disaster risk reduction (DRR) looks at how to build capacity to best prepare for disasters so the impacts are minimised. Unfortunately it can be difficult to fund these activities, even though they are extremely important!

  • Great point, Lynda. How do you (and others) think the humanitarian system can identify or mold humanitarian workers to act with integrity?

  • Hi Anne,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your point about climate change is a sobering reminder that not all 'natural disasters' are seemingly random acts of nature. The CHL organised a symposium on humanitarian health earlier this week, where we were lucky enough to hear from researcher Patricia Schwerdtle. She urged the audience to think more about...

  • Hi Esther,

    Thanks for your input. This is a great reminder of the other civil society actors people can turn to in disasters, such as churches or other faith-based groups.