SUM4503 – Preventing Pandemics: Security, Development and Global Governance Challenges

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Course content


A major pandemic – the global spread of highly infectious diseases like Ebola or new strains of influenza – is among the most severe threats facing civilization and a major issue for sustainable development. Pandemics threaten public health, societal security and the global economy, and the risks are accentuated by climate change. This course will draw on political, anthropological, historical, sociological and ethical perspectives to explore the threat of pandemics.

We will will analyze pandemic preparedness as a major global governance challenge which increasingly involves public-private partnerships between governmental and intergovernmental agencies like the World Health Organization, military, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian agencies, and for-profit companies, each with different motivations, resources and priorities.

By focusing on examples from past and current Ebola outbreaks, the course will provide insights into the tensions between humanitarian efforts, domestic security motivations and neo-colonial intervention, and growing reliance on technological solutions to poverty-related problems.

Learning outcome

Students will:

  • Get acquainted with the main development and political challenges posed by contagious infectious diseases at both community level and globally;
  •  Learn about the complexity of policy-making on an issue involving experts in public health, development aid, civil protection, humanitarian crises, military, diplomacy, and public-private partnerships etc.
  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of the competing political and financial interests at play in pandemic preparedness;
  • Critically analyze different policy options and practices in epidemic preparedness, including community perspectives
  • Understand the need for interdisciplinary approaches to study and address pandemic preparedness


You may apply to be a guest student at SUM. Please follow these instructions.


This one-week intensive course will include lectures, seminars, a field visit and a special seminar including a film screening and discussion with practioners and anthropologists with on-the-ground experience of epidemic response work. The main lecturers will be Katerini Storeng, Sonja Kittelsen and Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée from SUM and external guests lecturers.

The course includes a field visit to in Oslo, tentatively to the Institute of Public Health, to observe how pandemic preparedness is practiced in Norway.

As this course takes place over a short period of time and requires active participation from students, it is critical to have done the readings before the course starts.


Home exam.

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2020

The teaching period in spring 2020 is May 4th -  8th. 


Spring 2020

Teaching language