How do humanitarian aid workers think and act?
This work focuses on how humanitarian organisations operate, including their members, self-portrayals, messages, practices and cultures.
In our first interview, Marion Péchayre discussed a variety of management-related problems at Médecins Sans Frontières: working in silos, the ever-growing number of management tools for monitoring, the endless validation requests, the vanishing role of the individual in favour of pseudoscientific presentations of events and projects, etc. This interview, conducted by Elba Rahmouni, focuses on solutions to these problems and hypotheses on how to improve our ways of working. Rather than offering set recipes, Marion Péchayre advocates an approach based on “practical wisdom” (a concept from the sociology of professions) and deliberative management that every individual and team can apply in their own way.
In this interview, different issues related to management at MSF are broached with Marion Péchayre, Director of Studies at the CRASH, such as the fragmentation of different components of our work, professionalisation drifting towards an attitude of control as embodied by the multiplication of management tools and the omnipresence of requests for validation, and the devaluation of the role of the individual against the promotion of a pseudo-scientific presentation of facts and projects.
We’d like to share with you today some recommended reading around the issue of management, work, and ways of working. This choice will probably surprise some regular CRASH readers; isn’t this a far cry from the usual subjects of our critical analysis? Far from being chosen at random, the selection that follows in reality grew out of several years of reading.
In 2016, the Operations Department commissioned a critical review of the operations carried out between 2015 and 2016 in Borno State by MSF France in the north east of Nigeria. In response, and with the help of Epicentre, Judith Soussan and Fabrice Weissman from CRASH produced a detailed historical account of the analyses made of the situation by the teams, capital and headquarters at the time, as well as the objectives they set themselves, the actions they undertook, the obstacles they encountered and the results they achieved. As part of this project, some of the directors and operations managers who had been involved in these operations took a retrospective look at their own practices: were they late in responding to the catastrophic situation in the IDP camps in rural areas and on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, in 2016 and, if so, why? What conclusions can be drawn a posteriori about the operational choices made and the effectiveness of MSF intervention strategies? And, to take things a step further, what does this experience teach us about how MSF functions and how our teams work? Interview with Isabelle Defourny, Operations Director at MSF-OCP. By Elba Rahmouni.
Rebecca Grais, Research Director at Epicentre, MSF’s epidemiology arm, and Pierre Mendiharat, Deputy Director of Operations for MSF-France, offer their insights on the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu Province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This joint interview in four parts (the outbreak, social context, treatments, and vaccination) aims to show how science and practice interact around each outbreak.
The crude mortality rate (CMR) is one of the most widely used indicators at MSF and the humanitarian sector to evaluate the severity of a health crisis within a given population. It is widely recognized that a CMR equal to or greater than one death per 10,000 persons a day signifies an emergency situation requiring an immediate response. However, the usage of the standard emergency threshold as “1/10,000/day” is very questionable: it goes against the official recommendations endorsed by humanitarian organizations and ignores the worldwide decline in mortality rates over the last 30 years.
In this paper, Angélique Muller and Michaël Neuman attempt to explore the lessons learnt through examining the decisions as well as the difficulties MSF encountered in its provision of assistance to migrants in Grande-Synthe. This article was originally published in Humanitarian Exchange Magazine #67 in September 2016.
At the core of humanitarian action is the notion of humanity between humans, which leads to an inherent and inevitable struggle with real moral dilemmas. It means showing solidarity to one person and having to explain to another why you can't make resources available to them.
In recent years, fear-mongering reports based on hard data have been describing a world of ever-increasing danger for aid workers. The book "Saving lives and staying alive" explores this observation and compares it with MSF's experience of working in particularly dangerous regions.
On June 17, 2016,MSF announced that it will no longer accept funds from the European Union and Member States, as a sign of protest against the closure of European borders to migrants and asylum seekers.
In "Saving Lives and Staying Alive: Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" Michaël Neuman and his colleague Fabrice Weissman analyze some of the drivers of professionalization in the context of humanitarian security and its subsequent impact on humanitarian practices through a collection of MSF case studies.