Call edition 2012

A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.

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Médecins Sans Frontières Belgique (1980 - 1987), genesis of an NGO

Jean-Benoît FALISSE student laureate

°1984 Belgium
Licentiate in History, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2006

Médecins Sans Frontières Belgique (1980 - 1987), genèse d'une ONG

Médecins Sans Frontières Belgique (Doctors Without Borders Belgium) has received numerous tokens of gratitude, both formal and informal, from different sections of Belgian society over the past 25 years or more. The most important of all remains the unfailing support of a large number of donors and young doctors, nurses and logisticians who have been prepared to join the organization on missions that have often taken them to difficult situations and environments. A last token of gratitude has been lacking, however: the interest shown by the historians. With his study of the non-governmental organization's (NGO) first seven years of existence, Jean-Benoît Falisse opportunely remedies this situation.
Mr Falisse's work of contemporary history is remarkable in more ways than one. One great merit is that he has shown persistence in the difficult exercise of collecting existing rare documents. Busy with ensuring its own development and with taking care of people at risk, the NGO paid little attention at the time to what would one day become historical material. Mr Falisse dealt with the problem of the scant institutional memory by consulting the NGO's founders. By accepting to answer his numerous questions and in some cases opening their personal archives to him, these founders provided him with a wealth of information. This allows the reader to follow the meteoric ascent of the MSF project within Belgium as well as the beginnings of the internal unrest. The most interesting part of the study is in fact at this level. By crossing the archives with the memories, analyses and opinions of eleven important players at that time, including key figures such as Philippe Laurent, Réginald Moreels, Eric Goemaere and Rony Brauman - to name only the best-known - the author paints a faithful picture of several crises, which could be described as crises of emancipation and growth. As well as providing details - in which those who have worked for the organization will delight - the author identifies in some of the conflicts - those of 1985 with MSF France regarding Liberté Sans Frontières (freedom without borders) and the question of the exposure on Ethiopia - points of tension that persist within the MSF movement, which has now become international. Should MSF denounce the structure of North-South relations and the prevailing views on these relations; how can aid to populations at risk and media exposure be reconciled?
Our hope is that this study will enjoy a large audience. It is almost obligatory reading for thousands of Belgians and foreigners who have worked, still work or will one day work for MSF Belgique. MSF is a great concept and its development must be fed by its past.

report: Prof. B. Meessen, Department of Public Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium