Issue 17 – July 2021

Research and humanitarian aid: the challenges of a collaboration


Researchers and humanitarian actors: moving from mistrust to efficiency

By Valéry Ridde - In spite of some notable bridge-building efforts and much joint work carried out in recent years, researchers and humanitarian actors continue to regard each other too often with suspicion rooted in a mutual lack of understanding. The former are still sometimes perceived as preaching from the comfort of their ivory tower while the latter are seen as hard-pressed when it comes to thinking before acting and deciding how to use the most recent evidence-based findings to shape their actions. [Read more]


Research and humanitarian aid: navigating the unpredictable, limiting the avoidable

By Duncan McLean and Christine Jamet This Focus opens with an article on the place of research within Médecins Sans Frontières, taking us headfirst into the tensions and dilemmas that are engendered by collaboration between researchers and aid actors. Written by two representatives from each side of the question, underpinned by a reflective approach conducted with some of their colleagues, their contribution provides a balanced starting point for discussion. [Read more]

How to co-produce transdisciplinary and plural knowledge to solve complex humanitarian problems? An illustration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Jeremy Allouche and Camille Maubert Delving deeper, Camille Maubert and Jeremy Allouche shine a light on what the tensions and dilemmas might be. In addition to those inherent to the conflict of cultures between aid actors and researchers, there are the unequal considerations and conditions that researchers from the Global South and North face. The complex crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provides a unique anchor to the authors’ analysis. [Read more]

Incorporating the sciences into humanitarian interventions: the case of anticipatory action

By Camille Balcou - The anticipation of natural risks, especially due to climate change, has received increasing attention over the past few years. The author explains which forms this “anticipatory action” can take as well as the support and the reservations it attracts. Most importantly, she calls for an alliance of some sort between the “hard” and the social sciences in terms of their concepts, establishment and implementation. [Read more]

Improving collaboration between humanitarian and research actors to strengthen the evidence base for water, sanitation and hygiene interventions

By Marine Ricau, Daniele Lantagne and Baptiste Lecuyot It is the subject of “water, sanitation and hygiene” that is the focal point for the three authors in this paper as they single out the obstacles to combined actions between researchers and humanitarian workers. They illustrate the possible solutions through an innovative mechanism that their respective organisations – Tufts University and the French non-governmental organisation Solidarités International – have put in place. [Read more]

The contributions of clinical sociology research to the socio-humanitarian sector

By Maritza Pedreros  In this article, the author invites us into her engaged and reflective personal journey as a researcher. When she began to measure the limits that she believes thwart the methods of traditional sociology, she determined to apply the methods of clinical sociology to her work with migrant Colombian women falling prey to domestic violence in France. Her scientific and empirical approach opens up new horizons for the case management of victims in humanitarian contexts. [Read more]

Mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian interventions: critical analysis of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidelines

By Camilo Coral As the main mechanism for facilitating inter-agency decision-making in complex emergencies and natural disasters, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee has focused on the topic of mental health. The author here focuses his specialist’s gaze on these directives which largely condition the practices of the actors. [Read more]

[Online exclusive] The principles and challenges of the interplay and dual commitment between research and humanitarian action

By Pascale Hancart Petitet The author’s career perfectly illustrates the hybridisation at work between the worlds of humanitarian action and research. Drawing on her experiences and various projects carried out in Laos, Pascale Hancart Petitet presents her reflections and analysis of this “dual commitment”. [Read more]


An analysis of ethical dilemmas in medical internships in countries with limited resources

By Marc Imbeault, Émilie Gélinas and Oumar Mallé Samb What are the cross-effects (advantages and disadvantages) of humanitarian missions in fragile contexts? New light is shone on this long-standing issue through the lens of medical internships in countries with limited resources, a common practice in Quebec. Thanks to a study conducted by the authors, we learn a little more about the ethical dilemmas that participants on such courses may experience. Lessons that could really be useful for traditional humanitarian missions. [Read more]


Health multilateralism in the Biden era: it is a change for the better, but is it a change for good?

By Ron Waldman About six months have passed since the Biden Administration took the reins of government in the United States on 20 January 2021. It seems like a good time to take a look at what it has achieved in the area of global health. Ron Waldman, President of Doctors of the World-USA, leads us through this examination, which is as delicate as it is essential to appreciate the revival of multilateralism, so undermined under the Trump era. [Read more]



By Lâm Duc Hiên Lâm Duc Hiên met Ghazwan (14), Madiha (16) and Hadnan (12), three Yazidi siblings living in the Rwanga camp. They had been kidnapped and held separately, in Raqqa, Mosul and Tal Afar respectively, by the armed group of the Islamic State. “Through the rescue of Ghazwan, and of his brother and sister, I came to realise what had been happening, and what is still happening, to children captured by Daesh. I also became aware of Yazidi family solidarity and learned of the role played by the Kurdish government in rescuing the prisoners of Daesh. The collection of testimonials was spread over more than two years, between 2018 and 2020”. It is the story of this story that we tell here. [Read more]


Research and humanitarian aid: the challenges of a collaboration


The mother of all battles - [adapted from the foreword by Boris Martin] I could only take it as a compliment that Bertrand Bréqueville was so inspired by L’Adieu à l’humanitaire ? (“Farewell to humanitarian aid?”) that he resolved to tackle the issue in greater depth in L’humanitaire sous l’emprise du néolibéralisme (“Humanitarian aid caught in the grips of neoliberalism”). For an author, it is immensely satisfying to see one’s work ignite a spark that not only sheds light on one’s own musings but also kindles new ones. To then be asked by Bertrand Bréqueville to write the foreword for his book was an honour. [Read more]



A life of commitment alongside the “disenfranchised” - What is the story of this man who carried the ATD Quart Monde mission, alongside others, for forty years, in the footsteps its founder, Joseph Wresinski? Born in Switzerland, Eugen Brand first encountered the Movement at the age of 22 and became a permanent volunteer. He lived amongst families in great poverty and learned alongside them. This commitment would take him to Créteil, New York, Basel, Peru, Bolivia… [Read more]



Fraternity as the common good of humanity - In a Darwinian perspective, Michel Joli develops a conception of global fraternity as a benefit of evolution, a “common good of humanity”. It is the oldest manifestation of the social instinct that ensures the protection of the weakest, without distinction between groups. In this sense, it is an absolute necessity to preserve both the diversity and the unity of our species. Fraternity, a major anthropological asset, is indeed the only universal characteristic that unites all humans. [Read more]



The practice of midwives in Benin and Burkina Faso through the prism of research - Despite a long history of maternal health programs, the quality of obstetric care and access to facility services remain inadequate in West Africa. Although several qualitative studies have described human resource and facility constraints impacting pregnancy care and the violent or disrespectful care of women during labour, the reasons behind these behaviours have not been elucidated. [Read more]



A review of the Middle East - The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many reviews, including ours, to adapt. Whereas Humanitarian Alternatives upended its editorial schedule to devote itself to the subject, the excellent Questions internationales review maintained its programme for an issue devoted to the Middle East. This is to be commended, since the “world event” that was playing out could not lead us to neglect all of the other subjects of interest which remained as relevant as ever in the world turned upside down by the virus. [Read more]


Internal borders - It is a parallel space and time, a countercurrent running against the flow of passers-by strolling along the sunny Parisian canals that directors Hind Meddeb and Thim Naccache set out to film in the summer of 2016. This socially aware documentary provides insights into the daily life of exiles fleeing from wars in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Guinea, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. [Read more]


Thérèse Benoit • Anna Brun • Fay Guerry • Lucile Guieu • Sophie Jeangeorges • Juliet Powys • Darin Reisman • Benjamin Richardier • Derek Scoins • Naomi Walker

Correction of the French version: :

Catherine Tranchant

Correction of the English version: :

A.D.T. International

Acknowledgements for their voluntary contribution to this issue:

Brax • Damian Gonzalez Dominguez (CICR/ICRC)


In medias res


Imprimerie Brailly – Saint-Genis-Laval

ISSN : 2492-7120