Olivier had a natural openness towards others, reflected in his kindly smile. I believe this was truly heartfelt, unencumbered by any unnecessary considerations and so leaving room above all for clarity. He had the ability to put people at ease, speaking tactfully but with complete frankness. One felt close to Olivier and with him one rapidly moved from a professional relationship to one of great complicity and friendship.
In the 1990s, he carried out several humanitarian missions in succession, with Médecins Sans Frontières and Action contre la Faim (ACF). At ACF headquarters, where I was at that time, he told me in stark terms what he was living through in Rwanda against the backdrop of unprecedented violence that the country was experiencing. In charge of the Africa Desk at Médecins du Monde between 2001 and 2007, he then headed the NGO Enfants du Monde-Droits de l’Homme, before joining The European Guild. His humanitarian work was always accompanied by a reflection on the meaning of this action and on how it could be more effective by working together. I remember when he came to see me with Patrick Edel, to propose setting up Coordination Humanitaire et Développement (CHD). Only Olivier could have managed to gather together such a variety of organisations under one umbrella, now in its rightful place within Coordination SUD. He was just as effective leading the Alliance pour les Micro-Projets (AMP), the organisation enabling the pooling of resources for local micro-projects. Far from the scale of the programmes of the major humanitarian NGOs, these micro-projects maintain links with many local communities and build up the networks of solidarity essential for development.
Olivier left us on 6 May, no doubt to embark on a new adventure…
The next day, when the first flight having mobilised the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Action and the Head of the French Centre de crise took off from Lyon for Bangui in the Central African Republic, we took the opportunity, with the heads of NGOs present, to pay tribute to him. Olivier had begun his career in humanitarian work in the field of logistics and we decided to dedicate to his memory this “air bridge” between Europe and Africa, which Réseau Logistique Humanitaire (RLH) and Bioport are continuing to run today.
All the team at Humanitarian Alternatives and its founding members who knew Olivier well join me in expressing our sincere condolences to his family and friends. I am thinking in particular of his four children about whom he often spoke to me. We will not forget Olivier, his smile and his ability to help us to move forward together.
Benoît Miribel, Founding member of Humanitarian Alternatives