Category Archives: Culture (VEN)

U-Man, a new humanitarian radio programme

Pierre-Alain Gourion is the founder of Bubble Art, a Lyon-based multi-cultural association that has launched “U-Man” a radio and video programme on humanitarian action that intends to become a sounding board.

Humanitarian Alternatives  –  Pierre-Alain Gourion, please describe to us this new one-off thing called Bubble Art. How did this multi-faceted project come about?

Pierre-Alain Gourion  –  Bubble Art is the association I created when I was still a lawyer. After a thirty-five-year career and with a strong interest in culture, I thought that creating an independent legal structure to publish, write, shoot pictures, make sound recordings would make good sense. I first used it mainly to present art exhibits and organise Argentinian tango events, and later we set ourselves up in an old boiler making factory that we converted into a loft and a playhouse to launch live shows and on-camera radio programmes.

A. H.  –  How did your background as a lawyer prepare you for the Bubble Art experience?

P.-A. G.  –  It was while presenting our humanitarian U-Man programme that it dawned on me that my own professional experience could really give it substance. By substance, I mean an international dimension, an outreach to others. I had acted as legal counsel for the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples (MRAP) and for ten years, I had represented the victims of racial incidents and I had battled against the deportation of foreign nationals. But this did not turn me into a legal activist. I believe that a lawyer cannot be an activist. He must stay one step back from the issues he’s involved with. If he becomes an activist, he’s then wrapped up in a cause. You know, when you’ve done a job for thirty-five years, you get to know all the ins and outs, and my work thrilled me to the point that I was ready to carry it on to my last breath. Looking back, I reminisced over old movie sets – I had been assistant film director before studying law – and I also wanted to write. But writing takes time. So, I quit my job to go back to the work that I had loved. 

A. H.  –  Your U-Man programme is about humanitarian action. Why did do you find this interesting? 

P.-A. G.  –  By a stroke of luck, the background of a friend of mine, Benjamin Courlet, a 30-year-old humanitarian and former business student, caught my attention. I wanted to interview him as part of Bubble’s cultural program “Living Culture”. So, with Triangle Génération Humanitaire and Handicap International where he had worked, we did a programme. One thing led to another, and we moved ahead. And it was while doing this show, that I realised that there was a void to fill. When you talk about humanitarianism or environmental protection, you touch a soft spot. What can we do together? How can we help one another? This has now become a trend in France for sure, but also in the EU and abroad, and I am really amazed when I work with young people of how concerned they are about the future of their planet!  

A. H.  –  Your U-Man programme is available in podcast and video format, but also in written form since a transcript is available on your blog on Médiapart. What’s to be found there?

P.-A. G.  –  U-Man is in fact available as radio, video and written programmes. The idea is to get people to discuss and get involved. We’ve also come up with another series, “Founders of Humanitarianism”, in which we recently interviewed Xavier Emmanuelli, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, but we also plan to interview humanitarian technicians. We also want to organise round table discussions with short videos on humanitarian or environmental topics, such as the “Time to Be”, where we interview an eyewitness speaking directly to viewers. We want to create videos that address people’s concerns and that can be passed on to city officials and later, I hope, to other francophone countries. We will also ultimately try to approach non-French, and non-French-speaking NGOs.

A. H.  –  You have mentioned the link between humanitarianism and the environment, and this will precisely be the theme of Focus in our July issue. How do you see these two interacting?

P.-A. G.  –  We are at a historical turning point when these two concepts are intersecting. The history of humanitarianism goes back to the origins of the laws of war, back to the nineteenth century when the Red Cross was founded, and when it was later developed by the French doctors in the years 1970-1980 with the creation of NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, etc. The Brits also developed their own idea of humanitarianism, but differently from the French in that theirs maintains a stronger interaction with the State. Then there are the growing technical considerations of humanitarian operations. And today we see all the excitement around the environment, the questions raised on managing growth, on the meaning of progress. We’ve reached a time when these two themes are coming together and merging into one.

To know more about U-Man: https://www.bubble-art-prod.com/u-man

Translated from the French by Alan Johnson

Memory of a without borders

Memories of Indians. The story of a doctor of the world, Pierre Micheletti, Foreword by Jean Furtos Éditions Parole, 2018 (published in French)

Publisher’s note

The shape our life has taken over the years only becomes clear when we look back on our past. The young French migrant leaving Algeria, the land of his birth, in 1962 and landing up in a tough neighbourhood in Blois, France, knew nothing then of what the future would hold. What invisible hand would guide him to build a life for himself? What would be the influence on his journey through life of the belief his grandmother had in him, or the mysterious order from his father “Comb your hair, you look like an Indian! or his friends in the neighbourhood in which he grew up, or his teachers?

From young boy to the man he is today, Pierre Micheletti takes us with him on his path from family to the world. From country practitioner to humanitarian doctor, he makes a reality of his eagerness to see new places, meet new people. In so doing, he allows us to accompany him along the routes he followed. We feel as if we are actually rubbing shoulders with the peoples and the notable characters that marked his personal story and that of the world. From Danielle Mitterrand to Fidel Castro, from Tibet to Guiana, from the campesinos of Colombia to the Palestinians of Gaza, from his grandmother to his father, he tells the tale of a life as fascinating as a novel, with all its discoveries and questionings, and with a strong sense that globalisation’s only true value is a spirit of fraternity.

Pierre Micheletti joined Médecins du Monde in 1987, and was president of the organization from 2006 to 2009. He has taught in Grenoble at the Institute for Political Studies since 2009, where he co-directs the Masters course in “The policies and practices of international organisations”, and at the faculty of medicine where he leads the diploma course in “Health, solidarity and deprivation”. He has been vice-president of the charity Action against Hunger since 2015.

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.

Social commitment for dummies

Social commitment for dummies, Francis Charhon, with Marjolaine Koch, First, 2018 (published in French)

Editor’s note

The term “commitment” strikes a particular chord nowadays: there is a human need, sometimes a vital one, to feel needed. In a society in search of meaning where young people, generations Y and Z, the “millennials”, feel more and more they want to act for the common good, but increasingly question how best to do this, this is a subject that called for methodical treatment.

Francis Charhon is an intensive-care anaesthetist, and was appointed president of Médecins Sans Frontières in 1980 before becoming its executive director. In 1986 he set up the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and International Health and later became executive director of the Fondation de France, thereby encountering all aspects of commitment. He is also a member of the steering council of Humanitarian Alternatives.

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.

Mosul in the time of the Islamic State

The Islamic State of Mosul. The story of a totalitarian enterprise Hélène Sallon La Découverte, 2018 (published in French)

Editor’s note

With the series of terrorist attacks in Europe, repeated military defeats in Syria and in Iraq, the police and newspapers endlessly on the trail of Jihadist groups, the Islamic State group is never long out of the spotlight, although the true nature of the caliphate that Daesh sought to impose worldwide remains unclear. The liberation of Mosul has finally made it possible to reveal the facts about the Islamic State’s political and social plan, a project unparalleled in terms of scope and objectives.

The hitherto unpublished testimonies collected by Hélène Sallon from the inhabitants of Mosul portray its terrifying reality, very few accounts of which – and practically no pictures – have reached us. This exceptional book describes the “new, Jihadist social order” which the Islamic State tried to impose on the whole of society, and under which schoolchildren are taught to count by multiplying tonnes of explosives, and women considered insufficiently covered have their flesh clipped by brigades of women armed with iron-toothed pliers.

In this account which is as far from the sensationalist testimonies of Jihadists and their victims as it is from the dry, disembodied analyses of researchers, Hélène Sallon gives body and substance to the caliphate, a major cause of concern and speculation.

Hélène Sallon has been a journalist at Le Monde since 2010, and on the Middle East desk since 2014. An Arabic-speaker, she covered the battle of Mosul in Iraq from mid October 2016 to mid July 2017, spending more than four months in the field, following the Iraqi forces’offensive against the Jihadists and investigating their reign in Mosul.

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.

Syria by Rey

The history of Syria. 19th-21st centuries Matthieu Rey Fayard, 2018 (published in French)

Editor’s note

By cross-referencing press records, dissertations and declassified material, Matthieu Rey explains the foundations of contemporary Syria and its turbulent history. He encourages us to follow the still uncertain future development of a political community grouping diverse populations, men and women settling and organising their existence within a certain territory.

He tells of the revival of the countryside around the towns and cities to the detriment of the nomads, of the migrations of the Druze from Lebanon to Syria, of the mountain people to the plains and of those from the countryside to the towns, but he also gives a political account, interspersed with the revolutions and wars destined to give rise to a State whose history was revealed through the revolutionary crisis. Since 2011, Syria, the private preserve of the Assad family, has been at the heart of dramatic international events, torn apart by civil war.

Is its history not in the end that of hopes, clashes, trials, expectations, struggles and violence, and of projects shared by groups of people trying to create conditions in which to live together, in which everyone has a place?

Matthieu Rey is head of research at the CNRS and a research fellow at the Collège de France, studying the question of the construction of the State in the Arab and Persian Orient.

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.

A humanitarian life

Humanitarian. A life of action Philippe Chabasse, with Camille Sayart Foreword by Xavier Emmanuelli Alisio, 2018 (published in French)

Publisher’s note

A 5th year medical student and keen traveller, Philippe Chabasse met Bernard Kouchner one evening in November 1978. This would mark the beginning of his commitment to humanitarian work and would lead twenty years later to his award, with his associates in Handicap International, of the Nobel Peace Prize for their campaign against anti-personnel mines. Brimming with anecdotes, this book alternates between stories and analyses of the trends in the humanitarian aid sector and its place in the world of international diplomacy and cooperation. Philippe Chabasse shares with us the high points of his working life and paints pictures of some of the characters he has come across and who, like him, help to ensure the existence of a minimum of international solidarity. This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in these issues, but also for those, young or old, who dream of becoming involved.

Philippe Chabasse has spent practically the whole of his career in the international aid sector – first with Médecins Sans Frontières, as a doctor and then a programme manager. In 1983, he joined Handicap International of which he was to be one of the three co-directors for 20 years. In 1992, he helped to set up the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (Nobel Peace Prize 1997). He is currently secretary general of the Handicap International Federation and also works with the non-profit organisation Habitat et Humanisme.

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.