MSF holds its first International General Assembly, marks fortieth anniversary

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) concluded its first ever International General Assembly in Paris over the weekend. Members of MSF gathered from all over the world to discuss the future of its medical humanitarian assistance, medical innovation, speaking out and advocacy, and logistical support. The Assembly welcomed four new associations and elected a new International Board. On the same occasion, MSF also marked its fortieth anniversary in the presence of several founding members.

The first International General Assembly (IGA) is the culmination of a process undertaken by MSF over recent years to review its governance structure. Until recently, only national associations based in Western Europe, North America, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia made up the international movement, working together through the International Council. Recognition that this structure does not represent the global movement that MSF has become was at the heart of the governance change. With the new set-up, MSF hopes to be better prepared for future challenges by allowing for greater participation by current and former staff around the world in shaping the organisation’s way forward.

Four new associations were welcomed into the international movement: Brazil, East Africa, Latin America and South Africa. “It’s a great moment for MSF when we see our long-term decision-making open up to the reality of being a more global movement”, says the International President of MSF, Dr Unni Karunakara. “It is confirmation of our determination to invite a broad variety of experiences and ideas to contribute to our future direction. And it is a crucial change for allowing our medical humanitarian action to remain as informed, innovative and relevant as it has become over the past forty years.”

The IGA also elected six members to the new International Board, which oversees the organisation’s general direction throughout the year on behalf of the IGA. These new members are Michalis FOTIADIS, Dr Jean-Marie KINDERMANS, Colin MCILREAVY, Dr Clair MILLS, Dr Darin PORTNOY, and Dr Morten ROSTRUP. They join the Presidents of MSF’s five operational centres - Dr Marie-Pierre ALLIÉ, Dr Jose Antonio BASTOS, Dr Pim de GRAAF, Meinie NICOLAI and Dr Abiy TAMRAT - as well as the International President, Dr Unni Karunakara and International Treasurer, Martin AKED.

The first MSF IGA coincided with the organisation’s fortieth anniversary. In his President’s Report, Dr Karunakara paid tribute to MSF’s founders. “Today, we recognise the band of volunteers who started our sans-frontières movement forty years ago, here in Paris”, he said. “We have since become more professional, more international and gained recognition in large parts of the world. Yet the core values first developed in 1971 continue to drive and inspire us.” Several of MSF’s founders were present at the IGA and shared some of their early experiences with well over 300 participants, who collectively represented the organisation’s development through the years.