2013 FADs (English)

Guidelines and Formats

We are starting early this year with the FADs, with the objective that your voices and debate results reach the General Assemblies and International General Assembly in time to inform and inspire discussion in these fora. This early effort is a response to consistent feedback from FAD participants to begin the process in advance while the timing was developed in consultation with associative colleagues throughout the movement.

We reflect every year on what it means to be an association, what it means to have this possible vehicle for discussion and to thrive on a kind of self-questioning that drives us forward as a leader in the humanitarian world. I invite you this year to dive in to the FAD process, exercising your right to voice your opinions and taking action to ensure that the offices and bodies that support and guide our work understand the field realities.

The FADs are meant to be a social gathering as well as an opportunity for field and headquarters colleagues to learn about MSF as a movement. The process is as much about exchanging, meeting fellow colleagues and renewing perspectives as it is meant for learning about how our organisation works and expressing views on important issues. The relevance of the debate depends on what you bring to the table, and I encourage you to consider the international topic broadly, choosing from among the two options that are suggested below.

Last year, the movement came together around a debate on our negotiation strategies, examining the difficulties that our operations have faced in recent years in increasing bargaining leverage as well as the difficult compromises that have called into question our core operational principles. In 2013 we welcome you to consider a specific operational approach and the dilemmas we face in matching the principle with project implementation.

One of the main operational principles of MSF has been to base its actions on volunteers crossing borders to assist people in severe distress. Direct medical action through mixed teams with national and international staff has always been an important part of our identity.

Option 1: Access to populations in highly insecure contexts is difficult and in order to reduce security risks for humanitarian workers we make compromises to the principle of direct medical action: we sometimes work through so-called ‘remote-management’ and at times compose teams based on nationality (e.g.: exclude US-citizens in Afghanistan), gender (e.g.: OCB excluded female staff in Mogadishu) or colour of skin (e.g.: in Mauritania).

With these compromises are we actually eroding an important part of our identity? Should we rather leave contexts where we cannot operate with the presence of mixed teams? Before excluding certain people, did we negotiate sufficiently with the different actors to avoid such compromises?

Option 2: In contexts with lower security risk we often work through local partnerships in order to increase access, acceptance and advocacy opportunities. Does the indirect access to patients and do our increased ties to other actors cause us to relinquish our operational neutrality? When we work with local civil society groups who are  very active in advocating around issues of health while simultaneously partnering with MSF
in providing patient care, to what extent do we delegate, mentor/empower, control or remain fully independent from these groups? Do we balance the benefits against the risks of dependence and perception of our identity?

(...excerpt from "2013 FAD Invitation Letter" by International President Unni Karunakara)


By: Rebecca Cederholm