February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
Medecins San Frontieres (MSF, aka Doctors without Borders) has long been known for it’s stance of neutrality, impartiality and independence when it comes to humanitarian aid in conflict zones. Because of this, MSF has routinely been permitted to work in areas where other organizations have been banned. In a recent webinar entitled ‘At Any Price? Negotiating Access to Crisis Zones,’ members of MSF discussed the difficulty of negotiating with multiple actors (i.e. rebel groups, international bodies, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) in attempts to maintain the productivity of their mission and philosophy. I highly recommend watching it, though it’s a bit long (ignore the rather awkward first 2.5 seconds).
The webinar is just one example among many of MSF’s dedication to transparency and continual analysis of its own actions.
A quote that hit home for me:
“Many people do think in terms of black and white. I think I also thought in terms of black and white. And there is a lot of sense that the humanitarian enterprise is filled with moral purity. That it’s good…so nothing that you do could actually harm anyone. And what I discovered quickly, working in Kosovo, and then in Sudan and in Chechnya, is that actually the ‘do no harm’ approach is nice, but the real question is actually ‘do not too much harm.’ …We’re not operating above and beyond politics, in a bubble, we are confronted [with] tough choices.”
– Michael Neurman, Research Director at the MSF Center for Reflection on Humanitarian Knowledge and Action (CRASH)