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Dr Claire Pirotte, co-founder and former President of Groupe URD, has passed away. We look back at her outstanding contribution to our organisation.

Having worked for years with MSF in Central America and Iraq, Claire became involved in the Groupe URD adventure in 1992 following VSF’s 10-year anniversary conference "Développement, il y a urgence". It was the end of the Cold War and we did not know what the world had in store for us. But we understood one thing: the dialogue between emergency and development actors needed to be improved. Thanks to the amazing energy of Claire and Bernard Husson, we created Groupe URD. In 1997, the collective writing sessions for “Entre urgence et développement”, the first book in the "Pratiques Humanitaire en Question" collection that we launched with Claire at Editions Karthala, took place at the still somewhat ramshackle farmhouse of the Fontaine des Marins, which would become our wonderful headquarters. We formalised the new Groupe URD structure as an operational independent institute at MSF’s premises in Rue St Sabin in Paris, having been invited by Philippe Biberson, then president of MSF.

Claire took part in field missions, but, above all, she played an extraordinary role in the development of our organisation, as our President and then as a member of the Board of Directors. She helped us to keep going through thick and thin, and though our work has sometimes been recognised more in New York, Washington, Geneva or London than in Paris, we have become a key player in the production of ideas and methods for the crisis response sector.

And Claire was always there in moments of doubt, exhaustion, or anger, when the blows came from people we thought were friends. Always gentle but strong, she would say, "Don’t worry. You can’t stop the sea!". After a long struggle against a failing heart, she decided to apply this aphorism to herself. She slipped away gently, taking with her the love of her friends and family, and the huge esteem of many.

Dr. Claire Pirotte, we take our hats off to you! And, as is our tradition, when the season comes, we will plant a large olive tree that will bear your name...

Monique Cardot, President
François Grünewald, Executive Director
Véronique De Geoffroy, Deputy Director