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Save the date: Groupe URD’s 20th anniversary, 30 and 31 May
On 30 and 31 May, take part in a two-day conference and our 20th anniversary celebration evening

Out of the box, for a humanitarian sector on the move

Groupe URD’s 20 years’ of existence have been 20 years of impassioned debates during which we have tried to introduce innovative approaches and during which our point of view has sometimes clashed with mainstream thinking.

Thinking “out of the box” is the ability to look at things from another perspective, to reject established norms and take risks. Today, Groupe URD is widely recognised within the humanitarian sector as an organisation which is characterised by these “ways of seeing”.

These two decades of commitment to "Humanitarian Aid on the Move" [1], and of active involvement in the evolution of a sector which has constantly questioned its practices have not been easy. The sector itself has been threatened by attempts by politicians to instrumentalise it and has been shaken up by internal changes within organisations, but has nevertheless managed to evolve as the world has changed. There have also been challenges for us, with our human-scale team in the Baronnies mountains, proving on a day-to-day basis that our social and environmental commitments - both here and abroad - are part of the same engaging and demanding approach.

Perhaps more than anything these have been 20 years of reflection and action in favour of people. Is it necessary to recall that among the principles which were established by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, humanitarian action should be guided by the principle of humanity? Thus, “humanitarian action primarily concerns human beings and places people at the heart of its preoccupations. ‘Humanitarian’ does not signify a particular type of action or actions, but rather concern that human well-being and the preservation of human dignity should be central to all action directed at all people [2]”. Placing human beings at the centre of our preoccupations is therefore the very essence of humanitarian action. And yet…

Despite the standardisation of practices, professionalization, the structuring of the system and demand for improved performance, is humanitarian aid still primarily implemented in the name of this founding principle? Are we, as many have underlined in recent years, now faced with a system which is going through an identity crisis, drifting towards the tribulations of an increasingly competitive “humanitarian marketing”? Without falling into the trap of certain of these analyses - which are sometimes over-simplistic – we need to take the time to think about the human essence of our actions.

Because it is not enough to be in direct contact with communities to establish relations with them and because we must propose as well as provoke, we would like to invite you once again to think “out of the box”. And as an anniversary is a step rather than an end in itself, Groupe URD’s 20th anniversary will be an opportunity to continue reflecting and explore lesser trodden paths to envisage a new collective intelligence including understanding of the Other [3], curiosity, rigour and imagination, with our feet on the ground and our heads in the stars of the Drôme provençale…

This event will end with Groupe URD’s 20th anniversary party at our headquarters in Plaisians.

[1] In reference to the review "Humanitaire aid on the Move", produced by Groupe URD.

[2] Jean Luc Blondel, “Is humanitarian action everybody’s affair? Reflections on an overworked concept”, International Review of the Red Cross, No.838, June 2000.

[3] The term ‘intelligence de l’autre’ (understanding of the Other) is borrowed from Michel Sauquet, the author of L’intelligence de l’autre : prendre en compte les différences culturelles dans un monde à gérer en commun, Editions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2007.