Category Archives: Issue 15 – November 2020

Table of contents – Issue 15

  Boris Martin and François Grünewald The never-ending story p. 1
  Joël Glasman The invention of impartiality: the history of a humanitarian principle, from a legal, strategic and algorithmic perspective p. 8
Focus : Covid-19 : Lessons learned and future challenges
  Emmanuel Baron and Michaël Neuman Communicating and convincing: a humanitarian perspective on the French response to the coronavirus epidemic p. 24
  Olivia Nevissas, Aurélie Tinland, Cyril Farnarier, Emilie Mosnier and Marine Mosnier The homeless population and Covid-19: a study of the application of humanitarian praxis by non-profit organisations in Marseille p. 35
  George Foden Learning from Covid-19: the inextricable link between health and housing p. 48
  Irène Sesmaisons The impact of Covid-19 on African civil society organisations p. 59
  Marie-Claude Savard, François Audet and Marie-Pierre Leroux Localisation of aid through the lens of Covid-19: a matter of choice, or a last resort? p. 68
  Candice Holt, Xiomara Hurni-Cranston, Lamiya Mahpara Ahmed and Federica Mastroianni Data collection: lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic in Rohingya refugee camps, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh p. 79
  Diane Alalouf-Hall, Yvan Conoir, Jean Marc Fontan, David Grant-Poitras and Stéphanie Maltais Between threats and opportunities: the Canadian response to Covid-19 p. 94
  Madhushala Senaratne  Reinventing storytelling with the help of Covid-19? p. 116
  François Sennesael Distorted representation of the Other, neglected modernity and truncated partnerships: why humanitarian advocacy must be decolonised p. 128

  Philippe Ryfman Giving ourselves the means to fight against the impunity of attackers of humanitarian workers p. 144
  Bruno Cabanes   “Humanitarian Photography”: an historian’s point of view p. 152
Brax   The poorest, first victims of the pandemic? p. 171
Books   The sinews of war // A lasting spring // Alternative approach of change // History against the grain // 40 years of Solidarités International // 40 years of Médecins du Monde p. 172

40 years of Médecins du Monde

La belle histoire
Boris Martin
Éditions Médecins du Monde, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

2020 marks Médecins du Monde’s 40th anniversary. The age of maturity, perhaps, and above all the occasion to go back to the founding principles of the association, to review the memorable episodes of its history and to highlight the key elements of its action, which were stated four decades ago.

“To go where others will not, to testify to the intolerable, and to volunteer”. Such was the declaration of faith contained in the “oath of equals”, signed by forty-three people one day in 1980 in an amphitheatre in the Broussais hospital in Paris. The assembly, which included Biafran veterans, disillusioned members of Médecins Sans Frontières, the young guard from the Île de lumière operation in the South China Sea, doctors, journalists and photographers, gave rise to a newcomer in the little family of French humanitarian aid. A mix of militant determinism, triumphant enthusiasm and good-natured improvisation: Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) was born.

The author is the Editor-in-Chief of the Humanitarian Alternatives review.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

40 years of Solidarités International

Aider plus loin. 40 ans de crises, 40 ans d’actions
Pierre Brunet and Tugdual de Dieuleveult
Éditions Autrement, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

Afghanistan, 1980. Faced with the war imposed by the Soviet invasion, a group of young French people set off to help the population. Crossing the border illegally, on foot or on horseback, they brought aid to the remotest regions. This unprecedented humanitarian engagement gave rise to Solidarités International. Forty years later, the NGO is active is eighteen countries, wherever there is need. It also helps more than 4 million beneficiaries every year, victims of wars, epidemics or natural disasters. This book is an account of these forty years of actions, including texts by its founder Alain Boinet and his travelling companions – Gérard d’Aboville, Patrice Franceschi, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard Pivot –, but also by those in danger and by field teams. It also sheds light on new challenges linked to the future of humanitarian aid. It is the story of an exceptional human adventure, a daring response to the numerous crises that are shaking up the world.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

History against the grain

Pierre Singaravélou, Karim Miské and Marc Ball
Éditions du Seuil, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

Decolonisation began on the first day of colonisation. From the arrival of the first Europeans, the people of Africa and Asia rose up. No one accepts domination lightly. But in order to win one’s freedom back one day, one first had to stay alive. Faced with the Europeans’ machine guns, the struggle of the colonised people took on other forms: from civil disobedience to the Communist Revolution, by way of football and literature. The combat was characterised by infinite patience and a determination without bounds. This long struggle is the subject of this book, which, giving an account of the proliferation of university research, foremost offers a new and engaging narrative. It is an unforgettable saga that reveals the unknown or forgotten heroes and heroines of this painful story: Manikarnika Tambe, the queen of Jhansi who led her troops into battle against the British in India; Mary Nyanjiru, the insurgent from Nairobi; Lamine Senghor, the Senegalese infantryman turned anticolonial militant in Paris. Throughout the pages, we meet more familiar characters too: the Algerian Kateb Yacine, the Indian Gandhi, the Vietnamese Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Thanks to them, a wind of resistance swept across the world and resulted in the independence of nearly all of the colonies in the 1960s. But at what cost? In Indira Gandhi’s atomic India, in the Congo subjected to the dictatorship of Mobutu; or in London shaken by riots amongst young immigrants, this history of decolonisation demonstrates how important it is to tell this story today.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

Alternative approach of change

Development, Humanitarian Aid, and Social Welfare. Social Change from the Inside Out
Cornelia Walther
Palgrave Pivot, 2020

Humanitarian Work, Social Change, and Human Behavior. Compassion for Change
Cornelia Walther
Palgrave Pivot, 2020

Publisher’s note

The first book examines how human behaviour is shaped by our aspirations, emotions, thoughts and sensations, and conversely, how the experiences that result from our behaviour impact ourselves, others and the planet. Based on an analysis of the constant interplay between these four layers, it offers practical solutions to systematically induce sustainable social change dynamics. It shows why change, in addition to economic and political transformation at the macro level, begins with mind-shifts at the micro level. Hereby it establishes the missing link between investments in personal empowerment and collective welfare. A novel theoretical paradigm is the foundation of this book, which is anchored in the perspective of an ongoing “body-mind-heart-soul connection”. Based on the premise that an equitable society is to the benefit of everyone, it is argued that efforts made for others have benefits at three levels – for the individual who acts, the one who has been acted for and for society.

The second book is based on the view that human existence results from the interplay of four dimensions: mind, heart, body and soul, which find their expression in thoughts, emotions, sensations and aspirations. By combining theory and praxis, including personal lessons learned during the author’s two decades of humanitarian work in emergency areas, the book’s goal is to make the reader understand (thought), feel (emotion), experience (sensation) and want to be part of a paradigm shift that is geared toward local and global change (aspiration). It introduces a methodology to optimise the interplay between individuals and the institutions and societies in which they work, raise families and pursue their dreams. Further, it seeks to reposition purpose at the centre of both everyday life as well as humanitarian institutions. The book’s central message is that a better world is not, and should not be, abstract and abstruse, but something that lies in everyone’s hands.

A lasting spring

La face cachée des sociétés civiles au Maghreb
Emmanuel Matteudi, Fatima Chahid-lapeze and Martin Pericard
Prefaces by Tahar Ben Jelloun and Benjamin Stora
Éditions de l’Aube, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

The world is perpetually being shaken up by the rise of civil societies revolting against injustice, power, and ways of governing, but also in favour of increased freedoms, democracy, and greater consideration for our planet. The authors invite us to revisit the uprisings in Tunisia, Morocco, and more recently in Algeria, observing and calling into question the “hidden” faces of citizen expression.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

The sinews of war

0,03 % ! Pour une transformation du mouvement humanitaire international
Pierre Micheletti, preface by Xavier Emmanuelli
Éditions Parole, 2020
[Published in French]

Publisher’s note

A very large proportion of humanitarian action takes place in conflict zones. Every year, between 100 and 200 million people throughout the world depend on vital external aid in order to survive.

International emergency solidarity actions are deployed in the name of the fundamental principle of a shared humanity between the actors of aid and its beneficiaries. Nevertheless, these actions are confronted with difficulties that threaten to paralyse them. They are unable to raise the annual financial resources that they need. Teams are faced with suspicion and sometimes violence on behalf of warring parties. Antiterrorism laws do not take into account the realities which humanitarian actors are confronted with, that feed their insecurity.

Having untangled the complex skein of different actors and analysed the ambiguities that currently compromise humanitarian action, Pierre Micheletti draws up a list of ten recommendations in order to preserve the ability to act and to avoid the risk of being instrumentalised by major powers.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and its serious impact on the global economy, the first of these proposals concerns a radical change in terms of emergency funding. One figure sums it up, giving this essay its title: 0.03%…

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

“Humanitarian Photography”: an historian’s point of view

B. Cabanes

Bruno Cabanes is an historian, specialised in contemporary history. He is the Donald G. and Mary A. Dunn Chair in Military History at Ohio State University in the United States. He has written several books on the First World War and the post-war era, including The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918-1924 (Cambridge University Press), which received the 2016 Paul Birdsall Prize, awarded biennially by the American Historical Association. In 2018, he edited the collective volume Une histoire de la guerre du xixe siècle à nos jours published by Éditions du Seuil. This interview in fact relates to another of his books, entitled Un siècle de réfugiés. Photographier l’exil, published in 2019 also by the Éditions du Seuil. Continue reading

Giving ourselves the means to fight against the impunity of attackers of humanitarian workers

P. Ryfman

Philippe Ryfman Specialist in non-governmental and humanitarian issues

A deadly summer. The numerous killings of aid workers in recent months have rekindled the debate in the aid community. Should legal safeguards be added to the acceptance of risks and the strengthening of security protocols? Philippe Ryfman sets out his point of view, questioning a specific qualification and highlighting the scandal of impunity. Continue reading