Round table: MSF & Documenting History – One Approach to Research, Methodologies, & Education on Humanitarian Dilemmas

The Speaking Out Case Studies (SOCS) project emphasises speaking out as a core activity of the MSF movement. In these studies, key information sources – MSF volunteers’ written and oral recollections – are reconstructed by highlighting archive documents, press articles and videos from the period concerned and interviewing the main actors involved. The methodology aims at establishing the facts and setting out a chronological presentation of the positions adopted at the time. It enables the reconstruction of debates and dilemmas. When documentation is missing, interviews sometimes fill the gaps. These accounts also provide a human perspective on the events and insight into the key players’ analysis. In what ways does primary source data guide the narrative? The studies are intended to build knowledge and document memory, yet what about the reliability of stakeholder’s memories?

This roundtable will elaborate on the SOCS research methodology, pedagogy, research oversight of an independent editorial committee, how case studies are chosen for their humanitarian dilemmas, and how the reconstruction of internal MSF debates, representation of competing voices, and intensive focus on dilemmas are narrated without judging the quality of decisions made or creating bias and how this can be done using a case study approach versus a guided or guidelines methodology. The panel will further investigate how digital archives are accessed and how multi-media and e-learning tools (podcasts, synchronous and asynchronous thematic modules, reading grids, etc.) are researched and developed for broader access to SOCS materials both internally and externally for humanitarian practitioners to use and for academic institutions to instruct on the articulation of speaking out with humanitarian interventions and the associated ambiguities?


Laurence Binet
Laurence Binet is the Director and author of the MSF Speaking Out Case Studies. After having studied history at University of Caen (France) and international relations at Paris Institute of Political Sciences (France), she worked as a free-lance journalist for the French media for 20 years, while doing casual assignments for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Since 1999, she has been the director of the Speaking Out Case Studies, an international project of MSF which documents – through case studies – critical humanitarian dilemmas surrounding speaking out. She also has authored the study, ”MSF: Evolution of an International Movement: Associative History” released in 2018.

Mario Stephan
Mario Stephan is the Executive Director for Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s UAE regional office since 2018. He brings today over 17 years of experience in the Aid & Relief sector, having worked for several international organisations in a variety of contexts.

Mario’s experience encompasses a wide variety of roles, from field work to executive roles. In the course of his career, Mario has lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Egypt. Mario also held regional positions covering eastern and southern Africa, the MENA region, and the Gulf. Mario first worked with MSF in 2009, and before his appointment as Executive Director, was the founding director of Arabian Perspectives, a consultancy firm providing expertise and knowledge on the Arab World to the relief and development sectors.

Mario speaks Arabic, English, French and Spanish, and holds a Master’s degree in Management and Business Administration from the KEDGE business school (Bordeaux, France). He is accredited as a professional trainer by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (London, United Kingdom), and as a mentor at senior practitioner level by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (Brussels, Belgium).

Simone Rocha Valente Pinto
Simone has twenty-five years of international professional experience in humanitarian aid and human rights.  Her experience ranges from field work in war settings to crisis management in the aftermath of disasters. She has lived and or worked in around 20 countries, from the US to Afghanistan, including a dozen African nations, besides Brazil, where she is born and is currently based. Since 2009, Simone has been teaching humanitarianism and human rights to graduate and undergraduate students at the International Relations Department of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Her classes are experience based and numerous of her students went on to join international humanitarian organizations.

In her many years of field work with Médecins Sans Frontières, Simone specialized in protection, later working as humanitarian affairs adviser and researcher in the organization’s headquarters in Spain and Belgium, respectively. She undertook the feasibility study to open the Brazilian MSF office, which she directed for 6 years. For a few years she was on the editorial committee of MSF´s Speaking Out Case Study for which she now contributes as member of the Advisory Committee. Simone has also provided services to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in Brazil, and has specialized in human rights due diligence in corporations. She is currently the Latin American Advisor for the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights. Simone holds a Masters degree from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and a Certificat d´Études Politiques, from Science Po in Paris, France. Simone is fully fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, English and French.

Rebecca Golden
Rebecca Golden Timsar joined the MSF Speaking Out Case Studies (SOCS) team in 2020 as the Learning and Development Coordinator. She has served as an active member of the SOCS editorial committee since 2004. Rebecca is a cultural anthropologist specializing in extractive economies, gender, religion, and violence with a focus in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. She joined MSF in 1995, working as Head of Mission for thirteen years in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and India. She was responsible for medical programs treating malnutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, surgical programs for war-wounded, and emergency responses to disease outbreaks, including two large-scale cholera epidemics in northern Nigeria. She has worked in various roles at MSF head offices and served as a board director for the US office from 2007 to 2010. Rebecca speaks English and French and holds a PhD from Tulane University in cultural anthropology and worked as an academic in teaching both undergraduate and graduate-level courses for over 10 years before joining the SOCS L&D team.

Adele Aubrey
Adele Aubrey is Head of Institute Operations and Partnerships at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. 

 Adele was invited in 2020 to contribute to the Speaking Out Case Studies Learning and Development Advisory Committee for her expertise in enquiry-based learning, higher education programme development, and e-learning. The advisory committee provides the SOCS team with strategic directions on the project & guidance on learning and development approaches.

 Adele completed a Doctorate in Education at the University of Manchester researching enquiry-based learning and dimensions of contextualized power within higher education teaching and learning environments. A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, she has facilitated a diverse portfolio of innovative curriculum design projects and action research projects.

Whilst at the University her education and research projects have included: the development, piloting, and assessment of a European training package, focused on training-of-trainers of emergency medical teams within low-income countries and resource-poor settings; arts-based community education in fragile contexts in Nairobi, Soweto and New Delhi; and interdisciplinary learning for managing problems in global sustainability.

Currently, Adele is part of Elrha’s Global Prioritisation Exercise Reference Group a project aimed at helping to set international priorities for humanitarian research and innovation. And sits on the Steering Committees for the: ‘Leadership Education Academic Partnership’ (LEAP) programme, a suite of humanitarian practice flexible masters’ level courses for humanitarians, which is delivered jointly with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontiers, the LEAP programme brings together interdisciplinary academic expertise and operational humanitarian experience; and a ‘Humanitarian Sector and the Climate Emergency’ research and development project, collaborating with UK-Med and Save the Children UK.


Date and Time

3 November 2021
16.00 – 17.30 CET
Amphithéâtre Leroy-Beaulieu