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The Groupe URD Review

Methods and tools

CHS Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS)
Pictogrammme Sigmah Sigmah Software
Pictogrammme Reaching Resilience

Reaching Resilience
Pictogrammme brochure Environnement Training
Pictogrammme brochure Participation Handbook
Pictogrammme COMPAS COMPAS Method
Pictogrammme globe terrestre The Quality Mission
Pictogrammme PRECIS Humatem PRECIS Method

Jean de Lestrange
Refugees in the Horn of Africa Desk, DG ECHO

Jean de Lestrange
Refugees in the Horn of Africa Desk, DG ECHO

Groupe URD is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your relations with Groupe URD?

My name is Jean. I studied the Masters in Créteil a few years ago, so I am one of François’ former students. I wanted to learn from working alongside humanitarian professionals rather than in lecture theatres, so I worked for Groupe URD as a volunteer. This gave me the opportunity to learn a great deal about the major humanitarian issues, and to have my eyes and ears opened by impassioned debates about these (notably during the Autumn School on Humanitarian Aid). I also developed my “sandwich-buttering” skills in the unique and friendly atmosphere of the Fontaine des Marins (Groupe URD headquarters).
Later, I attempted to adapt the Quality COMPAS to field practice in Cambodia with a local NGO in connection with Save the Children and Enfants&Développement. I can’t say that it was very successful, but it did allow me to “cut my teeth”.
On returning from Sudan, I got a job with DG ECHO where I have been working for 3 years and where I have more indirect relations with Groupe URD.

How would you describe Groupe URD briefly/in a word?

I think Groupe URD is an important player in the humanitarian sector, with both qualities and weaknesses. It brings new ideas, but perhaps sometimes is lacking in operational capacity. The organisation depends on specific people (François, for example), which can be seen as a strength or a weakness depending on one’s point of view. In my view, I think that as long as Groupe URD’s ambitions remain measured (that is to say, adapted to its ability to absorb work/studies/evaluations, etc.), it remains a source of inspiration in the humanitarian landscape.

What is your perception of Groupe URD? How do you perceive its role, its positioning and its specific characteristics?

It is a platform which tries to remain active and in touch with humanitarian issues, which is pretty rare in France. The added value of Groupe URD is its network (ALNAP, for example) and its expertise in LRRD. They did a huge piece of work in challenging the SPHERE approach. Unfortunately, the COMPAS tool was never used enough by humanitarian actors, despite the great ideas that were behind it.

Do you have an anecdote you would like to share?

What would be ideal for the 20th anniversary would be to reproduce an event that I experienced a few years ago when Groupe URD performed a little concert with different forms of percussion. Each person chose an instrument, and it was a kind of metaphor for humanitarian action. It would be a good idea to do another little concert for the 20th anniversary .

How do you see Groupe URD in the future? What are your wishes for the future?

There are major changes ahead and my wish is that Groupe URD manages to negotiate these. Positioning is delicate because Groupe URD has almost “died” several times. They need to find the right balance, including in terms of positioning vis-à-vis political institutions. Groupe URD has always had a slightly unusual place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is not easy to find the right balance in terms of relations with the government. The increase in the number of non-traditional humanitarian actors, public/private partnerships and resilience are changes that will need to be negotiated. It is very important that they continue to enrich the network. They have come a long way, but they remain fragile. I was very happy to take part in these exchanges, but there is a need to continually find new energy so that they do not run out of steam.