Category Archives: Issue 9 – November 2018

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.

A Guinean jigsaw puzzle

Collective memory. A collaborative history of political violence in Guinea Collective International Federation for Human Rights, 2018 (published in French)

Editor’s note

Talking about history in Guinea is still awkward; it sometimes even creates a sense of unease. It is as if the interests of the powerful would be disrupted, or old family secrets revealed after being kept protected for decades. Guinean archives are fragmentary. Some are in the possession of private individuals, lying neglected at the bottom of drawers from which there is a reluctance to bring them out. The very existence of traces of the past is the stuff of rumour: someone says so-and-so has some photos, someone else has some old letters or the transcripts of interrogations. Guinean memories themselves seem fragmented, made up of separate pieces which are beginning to disappear since they have not been fitted back into the original jigsaw. This book is a contribution to the assembly of the jigsaw puzzle of Guinean history, a joint effort which encourages us to probe further than the fault lines of the 20th century. Guinean, French and American authors have collaborated to piece together elements of the history of political violence in Guinea. These authors come from a wide range of backgrounds: they are academics, human rights activists (FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, OGDH – Guinean Organization for the Defence of Human Rights), journalists (Radio France International – RFI), and they bring complementary points of view to this research. Their texts are illustrated by the works of the Indian photographer Mahesh Shantarem of Agence VU and the graphics of the Congolese cartoonist KHP. It is plural account which proves one thing at least: that when the silence is broken and memories are no longer shut away but shared, it becomes possible to write this history down.

The contributors to “Collective Memory” are Mouctar Bah, Maladho Siddy Baldé, Aliou Barry, Mohamed Saliou Camara, Anne Cantener, Laurent Correau, Safiatou Diallo, Vincent Foucher, Florent Geel, Florence Morice, Martin Mourre, Coralie Pierret, Antonin Rabecq, Olivier Rogez, Elizabeth Schmidt, Romain Tiquet, Carol Valade.


This work can be consulted and downloaded free of charge at : 

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry.

Lives in waiting

“A life in waiting: Refugees’mental health and narratives of social suffering after European Union border closures in March 2016”

Pia Juul Bjertrup, Malika Bouhenia, Philippe Mayaud, Clément Perrin, Jihane Ben Farhat et Karl Blanchet

Social Science & Medicine, vol. 215, octobre  2018, p. 53-60

“Syrian refugees in Greece: experience with violence, mental health status, and access to information during the journey and while in Greece”

Jihane Ben Farhat, Karl Blanchet, Pia Juul Bjertrup, ApostolosVeizis, Clément  Perrin, RebeccaM.Coulborn, PhilippeMayaudet SandraCohuet

BMC Medicine, 2018, 16:40

Since 2015, Europe has been facing an unprecedented arrival of refugees and migrants: more than one million people entered via land and sea routes. During their travels, they often face harsh conditions, forced detention, and violence in transit countries. The border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia closed in March  2016, blocking a popular route for refugees through Europe, and left around 60,000 people stranded in Greece. MSF Epicentre and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine decided to conduct a joint mixed method study in 2016 and 2017.

The epidemiological survey showed that depending on study sites between 31% and 77,5% reported having experienced at least one violent event in Syria – 24,8-57,5% during the journey to Greece, and 5-8% in their Greek settlement. Over 75% (up to 92%) of respondents ≥ 15 years old screened positive for anxiety disorder. To investigate the factors affecting this anxiety, the explanatory qualitative study showed that the refugees reported experiencing uncertainty and lack of control over their current life and future, which caused psychosocial distress and suffering.

The passivity of life in refugee camps aggravated feelings of meaninglessness and powerlessness. The disruption of key social networks and absence of interactions with the surrounding Greek society led to feelings of isolation and being unwelcome. Faster and transparent asylum procedures, the development of meaningful and empowering activities, and fostered social interactions with the surrounding society would contribute to alleviating their psychosocial suffering.

Karl Blanchet

Author and member of the editorial board


The articles (open access) can be read on:



Bruno-Georges David VA Press, coll. “Antidoxa”, 2018 (published in French)

Publisher’s comments

From the Tsunami to the earthquakes in Nepal or Haiti, from the plight of the Rohingya to the Syrian war or the migrant crisis, have NGOs become hypermarkets of solidarity, selling compassion in all departments to today’s captive sensation-hungry consumers? This work tells the inside story of current reality in NGOs and, for the greater good, uncompromisingly questions the way communication is manufactured in the humanitarian sector. Behind the compassionate facades and images of disaster, Bruno-Georges David provides an innovative and informative analysis of NGO marketing and fundraising appeal strategies. The author poses the legitimate questions of a professional and well-informed citizen concerning aberrations in organizational communication, a worrying phenomenon which could lead to a fatal breach between the NGOs and civil society and public opinion. Tested by over ten years of immersive research, teaching and lecturing on the media coverage of humanitarian crises and NGO communication, this work questions their relationships with money, the media and political authority. To what extent is there a blurring of self-promotion and information? Are manipulation and propaganda also prevalent in this sphere? We are given a broad overview of the real issues raised by the industrialisation of humanitarian action as regards the general public and the media, still taboo subjects in a tightly closed, secretive milieu. Taking on the role of a manifesto, this work recalls the origins of modern humanitarian action so that the generations to come may make a conscious and illusion-free commitment to humanitarian action, preventing it from becoming a mirage or a memory of the 20th century.

Bruno-Georges David is a consultant and Head of the Communications Department of the Social and Solidarity Economy of the School of Information and Communication Skills (EMI). He was previously Director of Communication and Development of Secours Islamique France and held the same position at Action Against Hunger. He is the founding President of the association Communication Sans Frontières, creator and founder of the Grand Prix of Communication Solidaire and of Observatoire de la Communication Solidaire. He is also a member of the steering council of Humanitarian Alternatives. He was previously Managing Director of BDC M & A, Managing Partner at TBWA/Corporate, CEO of ABDC.EU and he held various positions at Publicis: International Director, Deputy Wordwide Account Director, CEO and Chairman at Publicis Russia and CEO of Publicis Poland. He currently teaches at Paris I Sorbonne (CELSA) and Paris XII (UPEC).

The United Against Inhumanity initiative

Khaled Mansour, Jean-Baptiste Richardier and Antonio Donini • Members of the emerging movement United Against Inhumanity

K. Mansour

J.-B. Richardier


A. Donini

We are inaugurating a new “Tribune” section that will allow for the expression of various initiatives in the humanitarian sector, and original, iconoclastic and even polemical points of view. And it’s the United Against Inhumanity initiative that features in its first edition. Born of urgent expectations, disappointed by the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, matured within the Forum Espace Humanitaire and supported during its embryonic phase by the Humanitarian Alternatives association, it takes its official flight to call for a global mobilisation of civil society. Continue reading

The socio-economic integration of refugees involves recognising know-how, qualifications and skills

Alessia Lefébure • Directrice adjointe de l’École des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP)

A. Lefébure

Although higher education institutions have been called upon to recruit more students, refugees face multiple obstacles when it comes to accessing them. This is a clear sign that European countries, on this matter as elsewhere, are not without paradoxes or renunciations. And yet, the tools do exist. Continue reading