Fifteenth issue – November 2020

Covid-19: Lessons learned and future challenges


The never-ending story

By Boris Martin and François Grünewald - We have not seen the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. After attempting to manage – with extremely variable results from one continent to another – the first episode of the pandemic during the first semester of 2020, the world now faces countless unknowns, with as yet unwritten scenarios. [Read more]


The invention of impartiality: the history of a humanitarian principle, from a legal, strategic and algorithmic perspective

By Joël Glasman - The principle of impartiality, which is often reduced to a principle of mathematical distribution, was originally coined by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), at that time on a quest for legitimacy. However, reducing impartiality to a resource distribution algorithm strengthens the overarching position held by non-territorial organisations. [Read more]

Communicating and convincing: a humanitarian perspective on the French response to the coronavirus epidemic

By Emmanuel Baron and Michaël Neuman In this paper, the two authors examine certain aspects of the French response to the epidemic in the light of the experience of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in that field, primarily with respect to the relationship between the actors of the response and the beneficiaries. [Read more]

The homeless population and Covid-19: a study of the application of humanitarian praxis by non-profit organisations in Marseille

By Olivia Nevissas, Aurélie Tinland, Cyril Farnarier, Emilie Mosnier and Marine Mosnier While Marseille has received a lot of media attention since the beginning of the pandemic, the hard work undertaken by local medical and social service providers has remained hidden. This article provides the opportunity to measure their dedication. Above all, bringing together several experts alongside anthropologist Olivia Nevissas, it sets the stage for a potential revival of humanitarian action. [Read more]

Learning from Covid-19: the inextricable link between health and housing

By George Foden - If there is a health requirement as much as a cause of inequality that the pandemic has cruelly brought to light, it is that relating to housing. For the author, humanitarian actors must integrate this requirement. [Read more]

The impact of Covid-19 on African civil society organisations

By Irène Sesmaisons Even though Africa has been relatively spared from the pandemic in terms of both infection and mortality rates, it is a different story for the continent’s organisations. The author draws on a recent report to take stock of the situation and explore ways in which civil society can adapt in a beneficial way. [Read more]

Localisation of aid through the lens of Covid-19: a matter of choice, or a last resort?

By Marie-Claude Savard, François Audet and Marie-Pierre Leroux Vanuatu is one of the countries most exposed to natural hazards and one of the few in the world that has not recorded any case of Covid-19. Having closed its borders in the early hours of the pandemic, it then only has its own human resources to deal with the damage caused by a cyclone. An example noted by the authors to extol, once again, the virtues of the localisation of aid. [Read more]

Data collection: lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic in Rohingya refugee camps, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

By Candice Holt, Xiomara Hurni-Cranston, Lamiya Mahpara Ahmed and Federica Mastroianni Data collection is now an integral part of humanitarian action. And in this area of their work, as in the aid activities themselves, the emergence of the pandemic has forced organisations to adapt. This feedback from the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, shows how precious a resource refugees are. [Read more]

Between threats and opportunities: the Canadian response to Covid-19

By Diane Alalouf-Hall, Yvan Conoir, Jean Marc Fontan, David Grant-Poitras and Stéphanie Maltais How did Canada, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, organise itself? This collective of authors has undertaken a particularly instructive detailed review. We learn how non-governmental organisations, the Canadian Red Cross, provincial governments and the military came to support the medico-social teams. [Read more]

Reinventing storytelling with the help of Covid-19?

By Madhushala Senaratne Storytelling is now well integrated into the communication techniques of humanitarian organisations. So much so that the English term has taken its full place there beyond its Anglo-Saxon area of creation. The author, a doctoral student, postulates here that the current pandemic could – should? – help to reinvent it. In short, it is perhaps now that the future ways of telling the world and its suffering are being invented. [Read more]


Distorted representation of the Other, neglected modernity and truncated partnerships: why humanitarian advocacy must be decolonised

By François Sennesael The call for decolonisation of many areas of social life is increasingly being heard in the international aid sector. For the author, one of the workstreams should concern the advocacy which, according to him and with strong arguments, remains rooted in the system of representation of the Other forged at the beginning of the 20th century. [Read more]


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

By Philippe Ryfman - 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. [Read more]


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

Interview with Bruno 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. It is about his book Un siècle de réfugiés. Photographier l’exil, published in 2019 by the Éditions du Seuil, that we interviewed him today. [Read more]


The poorest, first victims of the pandemic?


The sinews of war - 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. [Read more]





A lasting spring - 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. [Read more]





Alternative approach of change - 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. [Read more]


History against the grain - 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. [Read more]





40 years of Solidarités InternationalAfghanistan, 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. [Read more]




40 years of Médecins du Monde2020 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. [Read more]


Thérèse Benoit • Méline Bernard • Gillian Eaton • Gabriel Grandjouan • Lucile Guieu • Alan Johnson • Juliet Powys • Darin Reisman • Derek Scoins

Correction for the French version:

Catherine Tranchant

Correction for the English version:

A.D.T. International

Acknowledgements for their voluntary contribution to this issue:

Brax • Damian Gonzalez Dominguez (CICR/ICRC) • Laethicia Lamotte (HI - Humanité & Inclusion)


In medias res


Imprimerie Brailly – Saint-Genis-Laval

ISSN : 2492-7120