What to debate?

Background Readings

International Topic

The International Topic is debated movement wide and allows giving input to the big debates in the associative dimension of the movement where our future is shaped.

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?

In addition, all missions have been sent copies of the film “Access to the Danger Zone”.  This film was produced by MSF and co-produced by a Belgian public television channel.  The film highlights some of the most difficult challenges our organization faces these last years: remaining present in conflict settings through a negotiated approach and without abandoning our fundamental humanitarian principles.

A French version of the document will be available in the coming months.  In case your mission would like a copy of it, please send a mail to: asso.brussels@brussels.msf.org.

National Topic

The OCB Board will not propose any “top down” discussion topics, we would rather see debates anchored in your field reality

It is generally a good idea, as well as a way to make people feel included and motivated, to involve the members of the team in suggestion of topics and final decision on what to debate. Note that the FAD should be of interest to, and are meant for both, national staff and expats. Make sure to raise the interest and involve both when preparing the agenda.  The FAD is for everybody in the mission!

The FADs are also a time to discuss or revisit the associative project of your mission! Check the associative project info on the web!

We also suggest you to use the mini-AG/FAD to start to organize an associative event related to the OCB Gathering in your mission: this event (May 24-25) will be broadcasted through the Internet and your mission will be able to interact in real-time via a Call Centre. Use the FAD to determine who will deal with the organization, what must be tested, rented, what will be foreseen during those days (you can choose to only follow certain moments, combining them with periods of internal debates within your mission, a party, or any other associative activities ...)

By: Rebecca Cederholm