How Doctors without Borders Is Erasing the Frontiers between North and South

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:50
Oral Presentation
Ludovic JOXE, Université Paris Descartes, France
Since the beginning of the years 2000, the landscape of the humanitarian sector has evolved. There are more non-governmental organizations (NGO) created in the South, and more international workers coming from the South in the Northern organizations. The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), founded in France in 1971, seems to follow the same trend. In 2015, 24% of its international staff came from the South. Which reasons can be identified to explain this evolution? And to which extent does it have an impact on MSF and on the humanitarian mindset?

Among the almost 500 projects led worldwide by MSF, more than 1000 positions for international workers are not covered. Forced to broaden its sources of recruitment, MSF is hiring staff from the South through its new sections in Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, etc. MSF is also hiring online which allows more and more workers from all over the world to be recruited. Yet the main source of staff coming from the South is the promotion of MSF own national staff. Indeed, only 10% of the staff are called “international”. The other 90% are “national staff” and work locally, in their home country. The national staff is a treasure for the organization. They often have worked for MSF for decades. They are skilled, trained and know the organisation and its values.

The current president of MSF-France is a former national staff from Liban. The Western supremacy, carrying the former developmentalist thought, is disappearing. The new international staff from the South bring new ways of management, new strategies, new values. The current trend is erasing the distinction between North and South. And the organisation, mirror of its members, is more and more diverse, multi-sited and cosmopolite, becoming paradoxically more “without borders” than at its origins.