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history of humanitarianism

Conférence sur les Pratiques de MSF à Ouganda
Article

From bureaucratic inertia to “policy fragility”

Interview by Helai Hosseini. A first version was published on the website of the MSF France association on 31 July 2020.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, voices have risen within MSF denouncing the racist and discriminatory nature of our organization. Equal opportunity, they say, is not offered to all our employees. Founded in France in the early 70s by a handful of doctors and journalists, the organization has grown and become international,  now employing over 46,000 people around the world, nearly 39,000 of whom are recruited locally. How has MSF’s policy towards its personnel evolved down the years? What is currently being done to fight inequalities? Here is Jean Hervé Bradol’s take on the major phases that have marked MSF’s transformation and the ways in which discussions are engaged today.

Inside MSF's hospital in Qayyarah, Iraq
Article

The Challenges of Globalization of International Relief and Development

First Published December 1, 1999 - Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ) - Volume 28 Issue 1.

This article begins with a look at the role played by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since its inception in 1971, and then looks at the challenges facing MSF today. It focuses on the confusion of humanitarian and political roles and on the goals MSF has laid out for itself to address this confusion. Humanitarian aid has become the favored response of governments to political crises, and governments have increasingly turned to NGOs to carry out their policies. In turn, NGOs have become increasingly dependent on governments for financial support. These changes have politicized aid delivery and made it difficult for NGOs to maintain their independence. In addition, as the number of NGOs increases and their activities become more specialized, there are pressures toward institutionalization and bureaucratization. To respond to these challenges, MSF has identified several goals, including maintaining organizational independence and flexibility and avoiding bureaucratization.

A young girl walks in the streets of Bama
Article

War and humanitarian aid

Rony Brauman focuses on the humanitarian environment and practices in war, in order to try to understand and analyze its political and ethical stakes. Starting with the creation of the Red Cross at the end of the XIXth century, he then focused on the contemporary postcolonial period, switching between various scales and reporting on contradictory points of view and issues.

Un homme transporte des sodas dans le camp de réfugiés de Dadaab
Article

MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose

We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system’s ability to provide aid is in decline. These statements, which suggest that MSF is itself outside the "system", are based on the very real number of people in relief operations who need help but do not receive it, or do not receive enough of it. 

Un homme transporte des sodas dans le camp de réfugiés de Dadaab
Blog post

MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose

We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system's ability to provide aid is in decline. Rony Brauman and Michaël Neuman aim at exploring MSF's relationship with the aid system, while showing how the ambitions of the aid system itself have evolved.