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Humanitarian response in a changing geopolitical landscape: an Anglo-French dialogue

Time (GMT +01) 17:00 19:00
Hero image description: Residents of Gudele, Southern Sudan, collecting water Image credit:William Ongoro Peter, independent researcher Image license:ODI given rights

Karl Blanchet - Lecturer in Health Systems Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Professor Simon Croft - Head of Faculty, Infectious and Tropical Diseases

Professor Philippe Ryfman - Departmentof Political Science at the Sorbonne, Paris

Pierre Salignon -  Director, Medecins du Monde

Hugo Slim - Director, CforC Group


James Darcy - Senior Fellow and former Director of the Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI



From earthquakes and tsunamis to war and genocide which wreak devastation on millions of people around the world, human suffering is never far from the headlines. But how do policymakers, charities and medics decide how best to reach those in need and what influences their approaches to humanitarian assistance?

A new book, co-edited by Karl Blanchet of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with Boris Martin, brings together the perspectives of eleven British and French humanitarians and academics to reflect on key problems. By contrasting the two nations’ approaches to crisis situations, Many Reasons to Intervene – French and British Approaches to Humanitarian Actionsheds light on the nature of humanitarianism and particularly on the principles of neutrality and independence of action.The contributors – who include Egbert Sondorp of the London School and James Darcy of ODI - assess the models of intervention with the intention of learning from both in order to inform approaches to humanitarianism for the 21st century.

The current practice of organised humanitarian action evolved largely from the approaches of voluntary agencies in Switzerland (the Red Cross), Britain and the United States. While these agencies are formally independent of their host governments, they have had varying degrees of collaborative working relationship with (and funding from) government. France was the last to join the group of so-called ‘founder democracies’ and its most prominent agencies have been more obviously independent of government. The ‘French doctors’– notably Médecins Sans Frontières and Médecins du Monde – and other agencies drew on existing forms of action to gradually develop their particular brand of intervention, which combines relief practices learnt from the Red Cross with efforts to mobilise public opinion using strategies invented by Amnesty International.

Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School, says: 'Many Ways to Intervene is a unique book on humanitarian aid…The description of the historical foundations of international assistance both in France and in the United Kingdom brings a new light to the political role of international NGOs. This important book will be of interest to all actors in the field of humanitarian aid, including policy makers, donors, implementers and academics.”

'Many reasons to Intervene' is published by Hurst.