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?


Eric Stobbaerts

Eric Stobbaerts drives the international development of DNDi (the Drugs for Neglected diseases initiative). Together with the leadership teams in Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, Cape Town, Kinshasa, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and New York, he ensures that strong partnerships -with a focus on LMIC- contribute to effective research and access to new treatments in the field of neglected diseases.  

Eric was general coordinator for MSF in the former Yugoslavia from December 1993 to April 1995. 

For 20 years, Eric worked with Médecins Sans Frontières in several contexts and a member of its Emergency Team. From 1998 to 2004, he headed the operational centre of MSF in Spain and helped the development of section outside of Europe particularly in Brazil and South Africa. He consulted for various international NGOs in London.

Graduated in Economics and political science at the University of Louvain, Eric has an MBA from the University of Geneva and completed studies in public health.

Francoise Bouchet Saulnier

Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier is a Doctor of Law and magistrate, International Legal Director of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). In 2018 she has received the Henri Dunant Prize. She is author of several books and articles on humanitarian law and action, in particular the Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law (3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2014). She is also a Member of the Editorial Committee of the International Review of the Red Cross and of the Editorial Committee of the historical MSF publication Speaking Out Case Studies. Over the past thirty years, she has been involved in developing key MSF policies and public positioning on humanitarian action and mass crimes, military intervention, and international criminal justice.

Rony Brauman

Rony Brauman is a medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques/ (Economic Alternatives). He has published several books and articles, including “Humanitarian Wars? Lies and Brainwashing” (Textuel, 2018), “Humanitarian Medicine” (PUF, 2010), “Think Urgently” (Editions du Seuil, 2006), “Health Utopias” (Editions Le Pommier, 2000), and “The Media and The Humanitarian: Information Ethics or Charity Spectacle (1996).

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.


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 in highly insecure contexts treating malnutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, surgical programs for war-wounded, and emergency responses to violence and 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 holds a PhD from Tulane University in cultural anthropology. She worked as an academic, teaching both undergraduate and graduate-level courses for over 10 years before joining the SOCS L&D team.




Date and Time

4 November 2021
15.30 – 17.00 CET
Amphithéâtre Jeannie de Clarens