Médecins Sans Frontières faces new challenges

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1397
  1. Hilary Bower

    The international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, Doris Schopper, tells Hilary Bower that she wants her organisation to have a louder voice in humanitarian issues. She hopes to do this without losing the spontaneity, individual commitment, and creativity of MSF

    Doris Schopper knows voluntary organisations need to change


    Non-governmental health organisations (NGOs) have burgeoned in recent years and none more so than Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). From a single French branch with a handful of people in 1971, MSF now has branches in 19 countries and sends 2400 people on operations each year to work with 15000 local staff.

    But the challenges that Doris Schopper, the organisation's international president, foresees are not restricted to questions of size and logistics. Along with those running other NGOs, she faces the pressing task of redefining the role of voluntary organisations in a rapidly changing political and social environment.

    One of the most frightening changes is the increasing climate of insecurity in which volunteers work. This loss of respect for the neutrality of humanitarian work is due partly to the disappearance of the division between East …

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