We're independent

We're independent

An MSF health worker discusses problems with an armed soldier in Angola, 1999. Caption
An MSF health worker discusses problems with an armed soldier in Angola, 1999.

It is easy to write inspiring words to define an organisation’s mission – it is much harder to put those principles into practice.

At the core of MSF’s identity is a commitment to independence, neutrality and impartiality.

These ideals have driven every aspect of our work – from medical care and logistics to finance and communications – since MSF was established in 1971. 

Our commitment to these principles, and the impact of the organisation built on them, was recognised in 1999 when MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Independent 

We rarely take funds from governments, businesses or institutions for our work, but rely mainly on the generosity of individual members of the public. One-hundred percent of our income comes from private donors giving small amounts. 

For MSF, this is the humanitarian act: to seek to relieve suffering, to seek to restore autonomy, to witness to the truth of injustice, and to insist on political responsibility...
 

Dr James Orbinski
|
Former MSF president

This means that when there is an emergency, we don’t need to wait for official funds to be released or for the media to generate interest; we can act fast to save people’s lives based on need alone. 

Our financial independence also means the aid we provide cannot be used to further any government’s political or military goals. 

Neutral 

In a conflict situation, we don’t take sides. We go where people’s medical needs are greatest. In the ward of one MSF field hospital, you might find wounded civilians alongside injured soldiers from opposing sides. Hostilities and weapons have to be left at the gate. 

Wherever we work, we make sure that local people understand that MSF is politically neutral and will provide assistance to anyone who needs it. 

Impartial 

We provide free medical care to people who need it. It doesn’t matter where they are from, which religion they belong to or what their political affiliations are.

All that matters is they are human beings in need.