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The Groupe URD Review

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Francis Charhon
General Director of Fondation de France

Francis Charhon
General Director of Fondation de France

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

Fondation de France works internationally in emergency contexts and also on development activities. We have always been interested in knowledge management, evaluation and experience sharing. From the beginning Groupe URD had similar objectives to ours in addition to which they had the capacity to publish articles and books, which we felt was very important. We first provided Groupe URD with funding in 1999, during the humanitarian response to Hurricane Mitch.
We have continued to work together more or less continually since then, on different subjects, such as the Quality COMPAS, the publication of the Participation Handbook and the evaluation of the response in Haiti. I would say that we share many ideas… Groupe URD is able to view things with a certain amount of distance, which we feel is essential. We therefore support them financially and regularly invite them to take part in events.

Can you describe Groupe URD briefly/in a word?

I appreciate their search for innovation, their ability to go in unusual directions, and their efforts to network organizations. It is not enough just to act, we need to think about what we are doing, why and how. It is fundamental to anticipate and to manage knowledge. The work that we did following Hurricane Mitch, for example, was useful in terms of managing the crisis after the Tsunami of 2005. Groupe URD was able to establish a network of organizations.

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

Their external and independent viewpoint is important. When one has an ethical code for evaluation and quality, it is important to be independent. Similarly, their website allows them to share information and studies. I also find the review Humanitarian Aid on the Move very interesting, notably because it is bilingual and goes beyond purely French-centred subject matter, and thus provides an international outlook. French NGOs need to be more outward-looking, and in this respect, Groupe URD helps to structure ideas.

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

In my opinion, Groupe URD occupies an important and very specific place in France, which is indispensible. In the future, it will be important to make sure that all those they work with are aware of how useful they are. They will need resources so that they can promote themselves more effectively. In France, few people write, but Groupe URD does and this writing lasts. There are not many humanitarian think tanks in France, so Groupe URD is very important.