Round Table

The Politics of Accountability and Accountability Narratives: A Retrospective on the MSF Speaking Out Case Study: “MSF and the War in the Former Yugoslavia 1991-2003.”

Drawing from the Médecins Sans Frontières Speaking Out Case Study: “MSF and the War in the Former Yugoslavia,” this panel investigates the barrier politics of accountability through competing and sometimes complementary narratives of solidarity and abandonment in humanitarian action. We explore the relevance, ambiguities, and limits of speaking out politics and the associated tensions articulating with accountability narratives. The MSF intervention in the war in the former Yugoslavia posed multiple dilemmas for the organization, each presenting conflicting potentialities, tested the limits of solidarity and humanitarian aid.

We will examine questions such as: If MSF is to be accountable to the besieged population by maintaining access and a certain level of medical care in the enclaves, did MSF also contribute the strategy of the besieging troops while concurrently softening their image? Could MSF call for the evacuation of civilians who wished to leave, thereby risking abetting the ethnic cleansing policy of the besieging army and by default risk abandonment of these targeted civilians? Did MSF give the population the false impression that they were safe as long as the team was present? Having trusted the UN Protection Force’s commitment to protect the enclave and its population, should MSF have accepted partial culpability or complicity in the UN’s abandonment of the enclave and the ensuing massacre of the population? And finally, what are internal and external tensions around solidarity, access, and bearing witness?


Laurence Binet, Rony Brauman, Francoise Saulnier Bouchet and Eric Stobbaerts

Date and Time

Can be found in the Conference Programme