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Videos, testimonials, photos … some of the highlights from Groupe URD’s first 20 years

2013 is Groupe URD’s 20th anniversary. To mark this special occasion, a two-day conference was organised in Plaisians at the association’s headquarters in the South-East of France on 30 and 31 May, which was then followed by an anniversary party.

For 2 days, almost 80 participants discussed current issues facing the humanitarian sector. Representatives of NGOs, of the French and German governments, of the European Commission, of research institutes, and of United Nations agencies, etc. discussed problems encountered in crisis contexts to try to find ways of making improvements for the future.
In a context of economic crisis, there are an increasing number of humanitarian crises and disasters, putting pressure on actors to use the resources available more and more efficiently. Though it is important to be economical with resources and though the aid sector has become more professional and more structured in recent years, it is also important not to forget the caring impulse which is the source of humanitarian aid and it is important not to get bogged down in procedures or to allow ourselves to get trapped in bureaucratization. Putting the human back into humanitarianism was the common theme to all the discussions over the two days.

Read the key messages

 Watch the debates (Webcam)


And a video interview of Mary B. Anderson (founder of CDA - Collaborative Learning Projects and co-author of “Time to listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid”).


 See some photos of the event

See the whole album


for the anniversary, Groupe URD conducted interviews with a number of people who, on different levels and at different times, played an important role in the history of the association...


Read the interviews

  • Alain Boinet, Founder and Managing Director of Solidarités International - President of Humanitarian and Development Cooperation
  • Jean-Pierre Cabouat, Head of International Relations with the French Red Cross from 1990 to 2005
  • Francis Charhon, General Director of Fondation de France
  • Stéphanie Daniel-Genc, Project Manager at the French Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Affairs Directorate
  • Joseph Dato, Director of HUMACOOP, 23 years with Médecins Du Monde
  • Jean de Lestrange, Refugees in the Horn of Africa Desk, DG ECHO
  • Christophe Gadrey, DG ECHO Desk Officer
  • Caroline Grandjean, Deputy Director of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Crisis Centre for humanitarian issues
  • John Mitchell, Director of ALNAP
  • Claire Pirotte, President of Groupe URD, Doctor who worked a lot for Médecins sans Frontières
  • Jean-Baptiste Richardier, General Director and co-founder of the Handicap International Federation
  • Rémi Russbach, Vice-President of the ‘Société internationale de médecine de catastrophe’, founding member of the ‘Geneva Foundation to protect health in war’ and part of Groupe URD’ governing board
  • Laurent Thomas, Assistant Director-General, Technical Cooperation Department, FAO
  • Jean-Bernard Veron, Head of the French Development Agency’s Crisis Prevention and Conflict Resolution Unit

 An overview of this year’s topics


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…

 Some tweets


[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.