Category Archives: Issue 3 – November 2016

The Metamorphosis of our Public Institutions

 Publisher’s comments


“Our public institutions are built on the philosophical fundamentals of science and reason. In the early twenty-first century, they are breaking up under the effects of the belief that progress is bygone, environmental disasters and the gradual discovery of the radical incompleteness of mathematics, and therefore of all science and thus of any modeling. The problem is structurally insurmountable; our public institutions are irreparably running out of breath.

The position defended in this book is to assert that belief in the operating power of science and of non-controversial reason, once effective, is now exhausted. Is it possible to reform our public institutions? The answer here is no, because their sap is dried up. But new sprouts, able to welcome the structural and structuring daily uncertainty, appear at the heart of our society, and announce its shift to a more open world, allowing to regain confidence in the future. Their emergence is based on otherness becoming the new name of fraternity, where the desire for the risk of meeting others without knowing the outcome flourishes. The author questions here the foundations of our public institutions at the intersection of several disciplines: science, technology, philosophy and economics. Beyond his engineering experience nourished from philosophy, he adopts the citizen standpoint in denouncing the excesses of techno-scientific supremacy threatening our democracies, and welcomes the changes at the margins of our society as many signs of a new era opening before us.”

Rosette, for the Example


Publisher’s comments

“Threatened with arrest in France, Rosette Wolczak crossed the Swiss border on September 24th 1943. Due to her age and according to the federal legislation, this Jewish teenager had to be welcomed. But on October 16th, she is deported for disciplinary reasons and for an alleged affront to public decency. Arrested by the Germans, she is deported to Auschwitz. She will never return. What happened in Geneva? What did she exactly do that was so serious for her to be sent back to France where Germans were multiplying arrests? What did this fifteen-year-old teenager do that could justify such a cruel measure at a time when military in Geneva were aware that the Jews were arrested and deported to the East? Claude Torracinta wanted to understand the reasons of such an arbitrary and unjustified decision. He carried out an investigation in Switzerland, France and Germany. He found in archives fragments of a life whose tragic fate was played in Geneva in October 1943. Victim of anti-Semitism from some military personnel and of the severe application of federal law to those who wanted to find refuge in Switzerland, Rosette has a right to compensation. Seventy-two years after her disappearance, this book has done her justice.”

R osette for the example, is an 80 page short book. Humble. A story by Claude Torracinta, journalist for the Geneva newspaper Le Temps, who wanted to pay tribute to this fifteen-year-old young girl, portrayed on the book cover. Take her out of oblivion. With sobriety the author wanted to tell the story of the last months of a victim of Swiss haughty, moralist and sometimes anti-Semitic officials, like Daniel Odier who was responsible for the application of the Bern leglisation in Geneva regarding migration programs. We don’t learn anything new from that time with this book. It only gives an individual and realistic dimension using administrative documents and the minutes of proceedings. The coldness of records. In a few words, a book where the focus is the person, the focus is the young woman.

Rosette for the example describes the course of a young Jew whose parents made her pass, in 1943 through Switzerland to flee France and avoid deportation. Rosette wasn’t an exception and Switzerland welcomed several thousands of children following almost the same path. Geneva was the city in Switzerland where the highest number of arrivals was registered.

Rosette crossed the Swiss-French border on September 24th 1943. On arrival she is taken to the Cropettes reception center. Bern’s policy regarding Jews is clear: “French Jews have to be sent away, as they aren’t in greater risk in their country, except for unaccompanied persons of less than 16 years old.” Rosette is fifteen. She can therefore pass and is authorized to stay in Switzerland. But on October 16th, she is deported and escorted to the border. What event could have justified such a decision? The authorities knew perfectly that Rosette would be sent to a camp in Germany and probably die. Archives provide only a partial answer to this. Rosette was caught making love to a young refugee. She is also accused of indecent behaviour towards the soldiers in charge of guarding the reception center, on September 29th, during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The sanction is taken: deportation. It is Odier, the official who calls for this decision “to make an example and take measures towards refugees that don’t deserve the welcoming we give them”.

On October 16th, Rosette is escorted to the border. We know that she will be arrested three days later and taken by the Germans to the Pax hotel in Annemasse. What happened during those three days of wandering of this fifteen year-old young woman in the Savoy countryside? We will never know. From there she was taken to the Drancy camp where she left on November 20th to arrive at Auschwitz on November 23rd 1943, where she was gassed the same day.

In November 1944, Rosette’s parents and her brother who were hiding in Isère and had escaped deportation went to Switzerland looking for her. Only in July 1945 they will learn her terrible fate.

Now that Europe in peace is experiencing its biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, this book reminds us that behind events there is always a face, a woman or a man, and that suffering is first of all individual.

We also understand that responsibility with respect to history concerns everyone and not only those who will enter the Encyclopedia as monsters or heroes.

Rosette is the story of those who don’t have one but also the story of chain responsibility. No one is responsible for what could of happened in the reception center in Geneva and yet, the unquestioned judgment led a young girl to death. Today more than ever, this book makes us think about the migrant situation and our responsibility in this crisis. To be read now, as it is relevant to the news of today.

Francisco Rubio – Associated Professor at the Webster University of Geneva

Humanitarian Transition in Senegal


Publisher’s comments

“The first volume of the collection ‘Humanitarian aid’s future’ is dedicated to the Humanitarian transition in Senegal. It is the outcome of discussions between academics, non-governmental actors, and institutional stakeholders, gathered in Dakar on November 5th and 6th 2014 by the French Red Cross Fund, to discuss collectively about their practices, their underlying principles and other issues relating to humanitarian aid.

The first part of the book proposes to ‘think about the Senegalese humanitarian sector (and beyond) from research to action’. It establishes a general overview of the evolution of humanitarian aid in Senegal, mainly from the standpoint of relations between ‘civil society’ and the government. The possibilities and specific modalities of research serving the humanitarian transition are also examined. The second part focuses on the interactions between values (cultural, moral, civic, etc.) and social and humanitarian interventions. Stressing the need to take into account the ‘world views’ of individuals and/or populations receiving aid, the authors contribute to the reflection on the meaning of humanitarian aid and the quest for support to its contemporary transformations.”

Long live philanthropy!

althum3_visuelsgalphoto24Publisher’s comments

Why is philanthropy vital? To which emergencies is it confronted? How to act? With whom? Crises succeed each other, States no longer have the means required to fulfill their ambitions, and lives, disrupted by the sudden evolution of our societies, face a multitude of hazards. Philanthropy is one of the positive responses to this world that neglects humanity. In France, the culture of giving becomes widespread; fund-raising is ever more professional; and the French – all generations considered – are more and more committed. Individuals, families, associations, businesses: philanthropy concerns us all. It is a deep commitment that is lived out each day. Its forms being manifold, each and every one of us – according to our means, our values and our beliefs – can find what drives us. There are no ‘small philanthropists’; there are philanthropists! Nurtured from many testimonies, this book provides an overview of philanthropy and shows how the emotional value of a donation and the satisfaction felt when committing exceed its nominal amount.”

Saving lives and staying alive


Publisher’s comments

“Experienced as being inherent to the humanitarian adventure, exposure to risk tends to be framed by standards, procedures and indicators developed by risk management professionals. This evolution raises many questions, including at MSF. Is insecurity really rising as it is claimed by specialists? Can we analyze and prevent risk in a significant way? What is the impact of risk management on the balance of power between the field and headquarters, between volunteers and their employing institutions? Are there alternatives to the dominant models influenced by the corporate world?

Such are the questions that are at the origins of this book, bringing together academics and practitioners. It analyses the diagnosis and the expert recommendations before confronting them to MSF experiences’ in particularly dangerous situations like Syria, the Central African Republic and the Caucasus.”

A Story of Humanitarian Aid


Publisher’s comments

“Too many segmented visions hide the multifaceted reality of humanitarian aid, despite being a crucial factor for survival, care and restoring rights and dignity of tens of millions of people, and a space of commitment of hundreds of thousand others. To better understand its issues, specificities and dynamics, we must first reexamine its genealogy. And then, show the successive emergences, the founding principles, the diversity of actors, and the continuity of mutations.

The approach has to be mirrored in order to understand the present by linking it to its historical depth. In an international context where unprecedented conflicts, catastrophes and pandemics arise on our interconnected, urbanized and populated planet, the humanitarian need won’t decrease any time soon. At the same time, responding to it is becoming every time more complex, between the difficulties of access, the insecurity, the tightening of sovereignties and the return of excluding ideologies; the whole while organizational and technologic transitions are underway.”

The never-ending reform of the United Nations


T he Library of the United Nations Office at Geneva hosts on a regular basis the well-named “Library Talks” on key subjects for the United Nations and the international community. Last September Humanitarian Alternatives attended the presentation of the book (only available in English) “Reforming the UN: A Chronology” by Joachim Müller published in June 2016. The book editor, also Director for Management and Finance at the organization for security and co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and former Director for Resource Management, World Meteorological Organization (WMO); gathered with John Burley Former Director, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and Chargé d’affaires of the international Development Law Organization; and Khalil Hamdani, Advisor to several multilateral organizations and former Director of the division of Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development, UNCTAD, in a debate moderated by Kathleen Cravero-Krifstofferson, President of the Oak Foundation, former Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Director of the United Nations Program on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS).

Described as “a dictionary” by John Burley, the book, details reform initiatives from enlarging the Security Council to establishing mechanisms to protect Human Rights, passing through improving aid efficiency, strengthening peacekeeping, approving the Sustainable Development Goals and reforming UN management practices.

The book, seventh issue of a series of publications(1)Also find in the same series of publication: Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The struggle for Legitimacy and Effectiveness, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, August 2006 or Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The Challenge of Working Together, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, April 2010. launched on the same subject by the Brill and Nijhoff editions, is structured in four parts: the chronology of main reforms initiatives developed by each Secretary-General; a detail chronology of reforms written on a day-to-day basis; an introduction to the UN system and the recent and effective UN reforms. The editor illustrates political confrontations, the support and constraints of each major reform and the dynamics of decision-making within the UN.

During the presentation, the panelists stressed that one of the difficulties of achieving UN reforms mainly lies in the definition of the term “Reform” itself: “For some governments it means implementing better management, for others it is a matter of representative governance and for civil society it is a matter of empowerment and being able to tackle major issues”, stressed Khalil Hamdani.

 Slightly more than seventy years after its creation, the UN is now facing new realities and is confronted with complex crises that no longer correspond to the current structure of the organization. This publication will, beyond doubt, allow capitalizing on past experiences to better engage in future reforms. However, we regret that the dissemination and access to this rich source of information are in fact limited by an exorbitant sale’s price (159 €). This is probably not the best way to interest a wide range of people in this crucial but never-ending issue.

Audrey Sala – Coordinator of the review Humanitarian Alternatives

1 Also find in the same series of publication: Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The struggle for Legitimacy and Effectiveness, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, August 2006 or Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The Challenge of Working Together, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, April 2010.

Summary – Third Issue

  Serge Breysse

Jean-Baptiste Richardier

Forced migrations: a necessary humaneness     p. 3


  Antonio Donini World Humanitarian summit: a lost opportunity? p. 14
  Marc Poncin Engaging with National authorities: Médecins sans Frontières’s experience in Guinea during the Ebola epidemic   p. 28
Focus : Forced migration : A global challenge


  Angelique Muller

Michael Neuman

MSF in Grande-Synthe: lessons from an unlikely coalition of actors p. 42
  Idil Atak

Yvan Conoir


“The priority for states must be to save lives” p. 52
  Marie Alice Torré

Thierry Benlahsen


Refugees and displaced persons in Nigeria and Myanmar: rethinking the synergy p. 71
  Achille Valéry Mengo


Refugees and displaced persons in Cameroon: the silent Hydra p. 80
  Paul Chiron Environmental migrations: future prospects p. 88


  Michel Maietta The European refugee crisis: forecasting for 2018 p. 98




  Virginie Troit


Humanitarian ethics and international relations: contradictions or (re)conciliations? p. 112




  Verena Richardier A look at NGOs in China p. 132


  Malika Aït-Mohamed Parent Corruption: a challenge that doesn’t escape the humanitarian sector p. 148


  Laurence Geai Neither safe nor sound: unaccompanied children in the North of France p. 158


    Totally Brax p. 172
  Barbara Hendricks Tribune: Greece is an example of solidarity for Europe!  

To download the summary in a PDF version please click here.

Greece is an example of solidarity for Europe!

  • Barbara Hendricks


After 20 years of commitment for the defence of refugees the world over, the opera singer Barbara Hendricks was appointed Honorary Ambassador for life of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, a unique title in the history of the institution. In 1991 and 1993, during the war in former Yugoslavia, she gave, out of solidarity, two concerts in Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. In 1998 she created the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, so as to prolong her combat for the prevention of conflicts. The text that follows is an extract of the speech that she pronounced on June20th 2016, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day. A vibrant plea that should reverberate next December18th, on the International Day for Migrants.

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