Once a humanitarian, always a humanitarian…

François Audet
François AudetDirector of the International Studies Institute of Montréal since March 2018, François Audet is also a professor at the School of Sciences and Management (ESG) of Quebec University in Montréal (UQAM) and is the Scientific Director of the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Action (OCCAH). He holds a doctorate from the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) of Quebec, which focuses on the decisional processes of international humanitarian organisations in accordance with the reinforcement of local capacities. Before embarking on an academic career, François Audet accumulated over fifteen years of experience in the humanitarian aid sector. His research interests focus on new practices in humanitarian relief, the effectiveness of humanitarian action towards refugees, and Canadian policies towards development assistance.
Humanitaires. Partir, revenir, mourir un peu
François Audet (dir.)
Éditions Kennes, 2021
(published in French)

Editor’s note

This book is unique amongst the essays interested in the humanitarian community of practice: it gives the floor to the professionals. Humanitarian aid workers have the privilege of entering the lives, and often the intimacy, of thousands of people. But surprisingly, bureaucratic imperatives mean that the most beautiful stories, at the heart of humanitarian action and human solidarity, are not highlighted, and remain confined to our memories.

These magnificent life stories unfortunately have no place in the humanitarian-spectacle of organisations that have quietly strayed from the very reason for their existence. We can see that communications on “humanitarian aid” are overwhelmingly dominated by brand image. By seeking at all costs to obtain funding through marketing tactics that are often guilt-inducing, organisations have moved away from the foundations of humanitarian work. In doing so, they provide an incomplete picture of this extraordinary profession.

This book seeks to make up for this “void”: to give a voice to the “human narrative,” to the human tragedy and to the values of solidarity of those who are confronted on a daily basis with epidemics, conflicts and natural disasters. These stories present our limitations, our dilemmas, and our biases and neo-colonial roots that influence our values. In the era of the humanitarian agenda of localisation and decolonisation, this book is therefore timely.

The exceptional people who agreed to share their memories in this collection all acknowledge the same thing: the heroic image of humanitarians circulated by Western organisations and the media is outdated. Instead, we need to focus on human relationships, beyond borders. It is in human contact that we find our motivations.
The stories that the authors present in this book are all based on experiences that sometimes reveal immense human sadness, sometimes renewed hope. But they all have something in common: the relationship with these women and men who have allowed us, momentarily, to enter their lives. These essays also provide a better understanding of the challenges of action in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this collection, this gives rise to small moments of extraordinary lucidity. From Afghanistan to Niger to Gaza, these stories all have the same roots: the experiences of humanitarian workers with exceptional trajectories, who are witnesses to situations that have not yet found their place in reports by organisations or the media.

The director of this book, François Audet, is a member of the Scientific Council of the Humanitarian Alternatives review.

Support Humanitarian Alternatives

Was this article useful and did you like it? Support our publication!

All of the publications on this site are freely accessible because our work is made possible in large part by the generosity of a group of financial partners. However, any additional support from our readers is greatly appreciated! It should enable us to further innovate, deepen the review’s content, expand its outreach, and provide the entire humanitarian sector with a bilingual international publication that addresses major humanitarian issues from an independent and quality-conscious standpoint. You can support our work by subscribing to the printed review, purchasing single issues or making a donation. We hope to see you on our online store! To support us with other actions and keep our research and debate community in great shape, click here!

You cannot copy content of this page