We speak out about what we witness while providing life-saving medical care.
We do this to improve conditions for people caught up in crises or facing barriers to healthcare. This act of bearing witness is at the core of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) work.
We advocate for the people under our care to governments, armed groups, UN agencies, international organisations and other influential groups. We do so to galvanise these people to action, to change strategies and policies in ways that will alleviate or avoid further suffering.
Realities of our work
Our advocacy is always grounded in the realities of our work, and the experiences of our project staff and patients. It’s based on the analysis of medical data, frontline research, and the testimonies of our staff, patients and their communities. In this way, we amplify their voices and make sure they are heard by those that must listen.
The humanitarian representatives and policy advisors in MSF UK’s programmes unit lead our advocacy, working alongside our Executive Director, medical research department and communications team, and in partnership with colleagues from across the MSF movement.
Together they engage with the UK government and other key policy makers or advisors, convene networks of allies and lead campaigns.
The programmes unit also undertakes reflection and analysis to inform MSF’s advocacy. Recent topics of reflection include: the effect of misinformation and disinformation on MSF’s work; new challenges for MSF’s water and sanitation projects; and methodologies for measuring the impact of attacks on healthcare.
"We are not sure that words can always save lives, but we know that silence can certainly kill"
Addressing urgent issues
Our advocacy work covers a wide range of topics, including migration, the climate emergency and access to medicines, and is always led by our operational priorities.
Much of this happens in private meetings and forums, where we present our findings directly to policy makers and influential researchers.
MSF UK also supports the MSF Access Campaign, which advocates for fair pricing for medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests that ensures all people can get the treatments they need, wherever they are.
Neutrality and advocacy
Sometimes people question whether speaking out means that MSF cannot claim to be neutral.
But as former MSF President Dr James Orbinski said while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of MSF in 1999, “Silence has long been confused with neutrality, and has been presented as a necessary condition for humanitarian action.
“From its beginning, MSF was created in opposition to this assumption. We are not sure that words can always save lives, but we know that silence can certainly kill."
When we speak out, we do so because the wellbeing of our patients demands it.
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