Category Archives: Conferences (VEN)

First edition of the “Rencontres de la Fondation Croix-Rouge française” (French Red Cross Foundation Gatherings)

On May 30th, 2018, Humanitarian Alternatives participated in the first edition of the "Rencontres de la Croix-Rouge française" (French Red-Cross Foundation Gatherings), a Humanitarian and Social Research event organised at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The event allowed to discover the results of the Foundation’s seven 2017 research fellows – that we will present below– and to keep promoting a space for reflection between researchers and professionals of the sector.

Jean-Jacques Eledjam – President of the French Red Cross and of the French Red Cross Foundation – and Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), opened a day of debates, and officially presented the launch of the French Red Cross Foundation, whose objective is to promote research and innovation in humanitarian aid and to put innovation “in the service of the most fragile and of social cohesion”(1)Jean-Jacques Eldedjam‘s address.

“Humanitarian aid in street situations”

Jeanne SEMIN – Anthropologist
Marjorie GERBIER-AUBLANC – Sociologist

Jeanne Semin, “Towards a concerted plan to remove children from the streets of Saint-Louis in Senegal: humanitarian transition and ethical principle of autonomy”: Jeanne Semin analysed the organisational network that helps Talibé children, showing the diversity of actors, the coordination difficulties but also the contentious relationship with the State. Her research also aims to break with the “beneficiary” analysis, depicted as a passive agent, and to show the capacity of street children to have a say in their future.

Marjorie Gerbier-Aublanc, “Human improvisation: possibilities and limits of citizen solidarity in Calais and Paris migrant camps”: Sociologist Marjorie Gerbier-Aublanc sought to analyse aid in camps, implemented by citizens she calls “ordinary” (characterised by their being disconnected from public affairs and from the realities of public policies) in the politicised and standardised humanitarian space. She studies the spontaneous origins of these grassroots movements, their “organisational DIY-ness” and their capacity to last. The relationship of grassroots movements with humanitarian aid professionals and the political sphere are also thoroughly studied in her paper.

“Organising the security space in Africa”

Alvar Jones Sanchez – Anthropologist
Tatiana Smirnova – Anthropologist

Alvar Jones Sanchez “Peace committees for conflict resolution in Casamance: from popular illusion to political denial”: The research of Alvar Jones Sanchez focuses on programmes implemented by humanitarian aid actors to involve populations in building peace in Casamance. Indeed, in this region of Senegal prey to a 35-year-old independence conflict, many humanitarian donors have entrusted this mission to humanitarian organisations. The peace building strategy consists in choosing individuals at the local and community levels and to train them in conflict resolution. Locally-based conflict resolution aims to help resolve the national conflict. However, Alvar Jones Sanchez develops a constructive criticism of this humanitarian practice, in this particular case. Indeed, the initiative’s exteriority and lack of coordination with other conflict resolution processes (traditional, administrative, etc.) seriously harm the efficiency of “peace committees”.

Tatiana Smirnova “Boko Haram and the displaced people in Niger’s Diffa region: thinking and building the humanitarian response in an insurrectional context (2013-2016)”: Tatiana Smirnova's research focused on the Diffa region in Niger. She tried to understand the articulation between humanitarian aid and the Boko Haram conflict’s dynamic. From 2013 to 2016, she analysed how actors (NGOs, local authorities, etc.) have developed a humanitarian response to the increasing refugee influx. She also wished to study how this aid is perceived by the beneficiaries and the insurgents. The issues of displaced people safety, camp building, but especially the State’s role – or “lack” thereof – have a major place in her research.

 “The humanitarian transition in the light of intimate relationships, community links and local communication”

Pierre Boris N’Nde – Anthropologist (Absent)
Marie FIERENS – PhD in information and communication sciences (video presentation)
Amalia Dragani – PhD in social anthropology and ethnology

In the 7th issue of Humanitarian Alternatives, you will also find Pierre Boris N’Nde’s article on the role of the State and private companies in the humanitarian sphere, through the example of a cash transfer program in Cameroun (available here).

Pierre Boris N’Nde “Security environment and humanitarian offer: the evolution of perceptions for the refugees of the Gado Badzeré site in Cameroun”: Pierre Boris N’Nde’s article deals with the evolution of refugees’ representations regarding the humanitarian offer in a refugee camp in East Cameroun. He analyses these representations in the light of the camp’s security environment.

Marie Fierens “Humanitarians and journalists in East Democratic Republic of Congo: a negotiated friendship”: Marie Fierens’ research deals with the relationships between humanitarian aid professionals and local journalists in East DRC. Information and its dissemination appear to be a major humanitarian issue. Her work highlights the difficulty for various actors to reconcile the humanitarian imperative with other stakes, especially democratic or commercial.

Amalia DraganiHumanitarian transfer in the light of intimate relationships: extreme heterogamy and new social cadets in Niger”: Amalia Dragani chose an unusual topic for her research. This analyse allowed her to study these marriages’ perceptions among host societies and the humanitarian sector. She also tried to understand the spouses’ benefits in this situation, seriously challenging the thesis that the relationship is particularly beneficial to the “local one”.

Debate: “Solidary ties throughout migration”

Annabel Desgrees Du Lou – Demographer, Research Director at IRD, deputy director at Institut Convergences Migrations
Damianos Kattar – Member of the Lebanese Red Cross, Professor in Economics and Strategy, former Minister of Finance and Economy of Lebanon
Marguerite Barankitse – President and Founder of Maison Shalom in Burundi and Rwanda
Pierre Micheletti – Co-Manager of the Master’s degree Politiques et Pratiques des Organisations Internationales at the Grenoble IEP, Vice-President of Action Contre la Faim  

Serge Paugam – Director of studies at EHESS, Research Director at the CNRS
Mahaman Tidjani AlouAssociate Professor at the universities of CAMES, former Dean of the Abdou Moumouni University’s faculty of Economic and Legal Sciences 

According to Serge Paugam(2)For further information: Interview with Serge Paugam:, the concept of “solidary ties” highlights social integration processes, and the inter-individual aspects of solidarity. His typology of social links is established according to the recognition and protection that they offer. Each type of social link refers to different moral conceptions and integration logics. A break in solidary ties can therefore be analysed as one of the causes of migration: individuals cannot find recognition and/or protection in their host country’s solidary ties, and they are forced to leave. But it can also be analysed as a consequence of migration. This break of social links is often compensated by the encounter of individuals from the same nationality or ethnic group in the host country. The creation of these communities allows migrants to find solidary ties again, reminding of Durkheim’s mechanical solidarity. Integration within the host society as a whole – divided between those accepting the migrants and those rejecting them – becomes a true challenge for these migrants.

As for Mahaman Tidjani Alou, he questions the notion of public service. Indeed, the migratory issue calls for a reflection on its boundaries, its competencies and its accessibility. He also wished to refocus the debate on the notions of man and heart, which, according to him, must be at the centre of all political, social and humanitarian answers to the migratory issues. Two major questions have thus been defined for this debate:

  • How to (re)build solidary ties with vulnerable populations and allow them to start over?
  • What role can the humanitarian sector play in the reconstruction of solidary ties?

The four participants have developed their input on the theme of “Solidary ties throughout migration”. Their diversity of experiences and areas of expertise allowed a comprehensive view of the subject.

Annabel Desgrees Du Lou – Demographer and Research Director at the IRD, used her research on HIV-positive African women living in France to discuss the theme of the debate. More precisely she studied an association in Paris that helps these women and aims to (re)integrate them into society. One of this association’s first actions is to welcome HIV-positive African women around one big traditional meal. It allows to establish solidary ties within a familiar context: mealtime. It also aims to create solidary ties through identification. Indeed, the women who run this association are former “beneficiaries” who have become “role models” for current “beneficiaries”. Annabel Desgrees Du Lou has raised one major issue of reconstructing social links within host societies: how to value the irreplaceable place of peers, without necessarily indulging in communitarianism?

Marguerite Barankitse, Founder of Maison Shalom in 1994, presented the work that she does in her home country, Burundi. Maison Shalom is a children’s shelter that has helped more than 20,000 children, regardless of their origin or ethnic group. Forced into exile in 2015, she has continued her work from abroad. Her participation reminded us of the importance of commitment, determination and heart in humanitarian aid.

Pierre Micheletti, Vice-President of Action Contre la Faim and professor at the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies (IEP), chose to study health centres for socially-underprivileged people in Grenoble. These associative structures seek to limit social inequalities in access to healthcare. It allowed him to question the importance of public authorities in reconstructing social and solidary ties, in situations of social insecurity.

Finally, Damianos Kattar brought his double expertise as a politician (former Minister of Finance and Economy of Lebanon) and as a humanitarian (member of the Lebanese Red Cross). His address focused on Lebanon. This country has a population of 4 million and currently hosts 2 million immigrants(3)Source:, mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians. For him, this situation calls solidary ties in Lebanon into question, for it creates economical and social difficulties. This demographic accumulation is not favourable to decent reception conditions for refugees, and to establishing solidary ties that bring recognition and protection.

The participants’ addresses were followed by a debate with the French Red Cross Foundation research fellows and with the audience. Notably, Alvar Jones Sanchez’s address reminded that “humanitarian aid still has trouble evoking migrants without making them an absolute alterity”, orienting the debate towards the difficulty for NGOs to reconcile compassion-based – or even victimizing – fundraising speeches and concrete action, which – according to him – should be based on interdependent and equal relationships in order not to be counterproductive.

Jean-Christophe Combe, Director of the French Red Cross and Secretary of the French Red Cross Foundation, gave a closing speech to this day of reflection.

1 Jean-Jacques Eldedjam‘s address.
2 For further information: Interview with Serge Paugam:
3 Source:

The impacts of climate change on poverty and humanitarian crises: what observations and proposals from civil society?

©Yann Castanier/Forum Mondial Convergences

As part of the 10th Convergences World Forum, we had the pleasure of co-organising a conference in partnership with the French Red Cross Fund, entitled:

“Impacts of climate change on poverty and humanitarian crises: what observations and proposals from civil society?”

As the President of the French Red Cross Fund, Professor Jean-François Mattei, recalled in his opening speech, our two organisations have common goals, especially that of “building bridges between the operational world on the field and the academic world, between the Anglo-Saxon and Francophone worlds, and […] accompanying ‘humanitarian transition’”.

For the second year in a row, Humanitarian Alternatives and the French Red Cross Fund presented “atypical” subjects at Convergences(1)In 2016, Humanitarian Alternatives endeavoured to analyse how humanitarian aid substituted for political weaknesses in the face of forced migrations (to see the full conference, click here) and the French Red Cross Fund organised a conference on insurance against risks of cataclysms and disasters of all kinds (Insurance against the risk of crisis: a path towards humanitarian transition?” To see the full conference, click here).. With this conference, which was held on Tuesday September 5th 2017, we united with the objective of presenting the impacts of climate change on poverty and humanitarian crises.


●      Mrs. Claire FEHRENBACH – General Director, OXFAM France, Paris
●      Mr. Benoît HAZARD – Anthropologist and research fellow at the CNRS and the EHESS, joint editor-in-chief of the Cahiers d’études africaines, Paris
●      Mr. Cheikh KANE – Consultant in climate resilience for West Africa, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Paris
●      Pr. Jeannot RAMIARAMANANA – Director of the Centre For Economics and Ethics for the Environment and Development at the University of Antananarivo and scientific advisor for the research programme UMI-Resiliences-IRD, Madagascar

The conference was moderated by Stéphanie STERN, head of the Lab Project, Action Contre la Faim, Paris


In 2014, the fifth report(2) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the evaluation of socio-economic aspects linked to climate change, and the consequences in terms of sustainable development, regional aspects, risk management and the establishment of a framework for intervention based on methods of adaptation and integration: an increase in under nutrition rates in Africa, redoubled causes of vulnerability for poor populations, a recrudescence of “natural” disasters linked to climate…

In 2015, on the eve of the COP21 in Paris, a report from the World Bank confirmed the link between climate and poverty, with one of the authors stating that “climate change represents a threat for the eradication of poverty, but its impacts on poverty by 2030 will be determined in large part by political choices: rapid, inclusive development which integrates the risks of climate change may prevent most impacts on the short term, however, 100 million more people may be poor in 2030 because of climate change, if adequate development policies are not adopted”. These projects should foremost concern political and economic actors, but they also raise questions regarding the still-distant relationship between humanitarian, environmental and development NGOs, in the West and in the Global South.

Faced with this injunction presented by the climatic agenda, can these three categories of NGOs remain, as we too often observe, confined to their respective fields, or ought they not finally ensure that they work together in field actions, coordinate their partnerships and lead common advocacy initiatives? This debate, which took place as France announced a decrease in development aid and the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, was the opportunity to share their observations and proposals.

Bringing humans back to the forefront of concerns

The acceleration and intensification of natural disasters places the question of the impact of climate change at the centre of the debate. We can observe an undeniable increase in temperatures, a heightened frequency of extreme natural events, and a rise in pollution levels which threaten to become even more harmful than those of the pre-industrial era. All of these factors will indisputably have an impact on the local economies of the most vulnerable countries.

The example of Madagascar

Madagascar is an island which has been struck hard by cyclones. The largely agricultural country (¾ of the population) is heavily dependent on the climate. However, a number of factors limit the country’s capacity to face up to climate change: the precarious health system, the population’s low level of education (40% of adults are illiterate), insufficient financial means, the fragility of political institutions, the demographic curve, the bad management and exploitation of natural resources…

These factors all mean that the country is currently under threat.

Benoit Hazard believes that in order to face up to the consequences of climate change, the problem must no longer be analysed from the angle of the geosciences, but must focus on human, social and public structures. In the same way, Professor Jeannot Ramiaramanana insisted that climate change must not remain a purely scientific issue but that mankind must be at the centre of concerns. He called for the application of the principle of precaution and of shared, yet differentiated, responsibility, recalling that “we have all – to different degrees – participated in climate change and we must all, at our respective levels, take control of the responsibility according to our capacity for action”. Today, “the issue is no longer that of pointing the finger at those who are most responsible, but taking into account the needs of each community”, and respecting the principles of justice, equality and solidarity.

What international mobilisation?

At the international level, the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the unfinished discussions regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions reveal a lack of international mobilisation and coherence in the face of this problem, which must be considered to be global. According to Professor Jeannot Ramiaramanana, it is necessary to favour an approach based on the means at the disposal of the international community in order to confront climate change. Scientists are bound by their “duty to the truth”, and aid actors by the implementation of ethical principles and the taking into account of each party’s needs and capacities to reduce the effects of climate change.

The example of a mobilisation: Oxfam

Oxfam is a confederation of 20 affiliates working in 90 countries. Oxfam’s mission is to combat the inequalities which exacerbate poverty, with the goal of eradicating it.
At Oxfam, the question of climate change is seen from the angle of poverty, and more specifically, of food security, and is based on the observation that climate change provokes natural disasters which will have an impact on crops and farming and therefore on food production. According to the association’s estimates, the average price of food with increase by 140% by 2030, and this increase will directly affect the most vulnerable populations. By 2050, more than 20% of the population will suffer from food scarcity.
In the field, Oxfam acts on the total system of food and water supplies, and on issues of sanitation. The association also provides food assistance, shelter and emergency kits.
Oxfam works with concerned populations on different issues such as the creation of grain stocks, the revitalisation of mangroves – which enable the development of biodiversity and, in case of typhoons, hold back water -, early warning systems, the reinforcement of resilience capacities, risk prevention, etc.
In France, Oxfam carries out important advocacy work by publishing reports, raising awareness amongst the general public, and calling for mobilisation in order to influence decision-makers and demand ambitious policy commitments.
To learn more about Oxfam’s actions, click here.

Moreover, Claire Fehrenbach recalls the creation, in 2009, of the Green Climate Fund, during the Copenhagen Summit, wherein countries agreed to engage 100 billion dollars by 2020, a part of which was to be hosted by the Green Fund, making it the primary channel for “climate funding”. Yet the Fund collected only 10 billion between 2015 and 2018, out of the 100 billion that were initially pledged.

A number of tensions exist regarding the circulation of funding, and the complex accreditation system put in place in order to define the distribution of funding. Claire Fehrenbach decries the absence of an “exclusion” list to prevent the funding of harmful projects. As an example, the GIEC experts agree that 80% of fossil fuel resources must remain in the subsoil in order to avoid rising temperatures. Yet nothing in the Green Fund’s regulations excludes projects based on fossil fuels. On the contrary, some of the banks which enable the circulation of this funding invest in this sector…

The coming challenges

A question which is becoming increasingly important to answer concerns the link between climate change, conflict and forced displacement. Cheikh Kane, from the Climate Centre, points out that this question must be clearly addressed and systematically taken into account by states. He reminds us that forced migrations due to the impacts of climate change fall into a legal vacuum, since there is no status for “climate refugees”. Hence, in this context, the Climate Centre is committed to this question and is endeavouring to replace it at the centre of the debate by appealing to international humanitarian law. Cheikh Kane points out that climate change exacerbates conflicts around natural resources, which forces populations to migrate. However, unlike the refugee status, the difficulty of this potential status lies in the identification of the source of the pressure, which gives rise to real limits in terms of responsibility and accountability.

The Climate Centre is a specialised reference centre and part of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, based in the Netherlands. Its mission is to allow the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, and their partners, to reduce the impacts of climate change and extreme climatic events on the most vulnerable populations.

The Centre brings together climate specialists and offers advice and strategic research work. The Centre’s research is based on the knowledge and support of the national societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the IFRC and the ICRC. Moreover, the Centre works with a large network of humanitarian partners and climate specialists.

To find out more, you can consult the annual report, available here.

Finally, Benoit Hazard mentioned the capacity of local populations, which depend on natural resources, to adapt. Taking the example of East Africa, he recalled their capacity to reconvert and adapt. One of the major challenges according to him is therefore to take into account the consequences of aid programmes, and integrate their capacities and resources for adaptation. In this context, he warned against the destructuring effects which certain programmes can have on social relations and resource management. There is, according to him, an important anthropological reflection to be carried out, which could benefit development practices and humanitarian aid.

To see the full conference, click here, and for more videos visit our YouTube channel.

Translated from the French by Juliet POWYS

1 In 2016, Humanitarian Alternatives endeavoured to analyse how humanitarian aid substituted for political weaknesses in the face of forced migrations (to see the full conference, click here) and the French Red Cross Fund organised a conference on insurance against risks of cataclysms and disasters of all kinds (Insurance against the risk of crisis: a path towards humanitarian transition?” To see the full conference, click here).

Convergences World Forum – 2016

On September 7th 2016, in the context of the 9th Convergences World Forum, (, Humanitarian Alternatives co-organized its first public debate "In the face of constrained migration, Humanitarian action, as a substitute to political failure?"

Led by Boris Martin, Editor in Chief of the review, the conference brought together a panel of French NGO leaders, the representative in France of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the President of the French Foundation Centre, all committed to defend migrants’ rights.

Bernard Kouchner, former Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (2007-2010) and co-founder of Doctors Without Borders and Médecins du Monde, agreed to be the Great Witness, stating that the important thing was to "fight against this extraordinary wave of racism, nationalism and catastrophism. This is why politicians - because they are afraid of the FN [NDLR: Front National – Far-right wing French political party], for the upcoming elections - built this suspicion, or in any case, didn’t participate in the welcoming and of elementary generosity movement for those coming to our country, and they weren’t that many.” Furthermore he added that if “the State has to give money and resources […] it is to the proximity, the human and the familial solidarity we must call upon.”

To watch the integral recording of this debate please click here