Case studies/Médecins Sans Frontières

From Strategic Planning

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is a secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic disease.

Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971 by a small group of French doctors in the aftermath of the Biafra secession, who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders.The organization is known in most of the world by its French name or simply as MSF, but in the United States, Canada and Ireland the name 'Doctors Without Borders' is often used instead.

In 2007 over 26,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 60 countries. Private donors provide about 80% of the organization's funding, while governmental and corporate donations provide the rest, giving MSF an annual budget of approximately USD 400 million.

The organization actively provides health care and medical training to populations in more than 60 countries, and frequently insists on political responsibility in conflict zones such as Chechnya and Kosovo. Only once in its history, during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has the organisation called for military intervention. To be able to speak and act freely, MSF remains independent of any political, religious or economic powers. The majority of all MSF activities are paid for with private donations.

Organizational Structure

  • Common policies on core issues are coordinated by the International Council, in which each of the 19 national sections is represented
  • An international office coordinates international activities common to the five operational centers (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva, Paris)
  • Operational decisions are made largely independently by those five centers
  • In 2007, over 26,000 medical professionals and other volunteers participated in field missions to provide direct aid in over 60 countries
  • "All MSF sections are linked together by a common name and logo, and common principles as expressed by the MSF Charter and Chantilly documents. The statutes of 'MSF International,' the w:La Mancha Agreements, resolutions of hte IC, and a high level of interconnection and interdependence complete those links"

Governance Structure

These structures were laid out in the w:La Mancha Agreements:

  • Mutual accountability and active transparency are essential to improving the relevance, effectiveness, and quality of interventions
  • Informed and active associations and their representatives are crucial to assuring the relevance of actions and the maintenance of a strong MSF international movement. Invigorating participation in the associative at all levels of MSF is essential to building and maintaining credible, competent and relevant international governance
  • National Boards are accountable for the actions and the use of resources of their section to the other sections of MSF
  • In carrying out its responsibilities, the IC is accountable to MSF associations. Timely and transparent reporting is essential. The IC is responsible for putting mechanisms in place to ensure and evaluate the quality of its work and the ability of its members to fulfill their responsibilities