MSF Speaking Out

Introductory Level Course: How does Speaking Out Articulate with MSF’s Working Humanitarian Principles?

This is the first module in a series of MSF Speaking Out Case Studies (SOCS) learning modules to come. Although any of the MSF Speaking Out Case Studies could be used to teach this thematic on speaking out and working humanitarian principles, the SOCS team chose the case study on “MSF and the War in the Former Yugoslavia 1991-2003” (published in 2013) because of the specifics of this case, which reveal the constraints and questions associated with striking a balance between ethics, medical ethics, humanitarian principles, and speaking out—key components of the central thematic. Ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and an international community that abandons the population are critical features of this war.

The working principles thematic includes an introduction to concepts such as: 

  • Respect for humanity and the humanitarian imperative    
  • The normative international humanitarian framework
  • Medical ethics including 'do no harm' and solidarity
  • Working humanitarian principles such as impartiality, neutrality, independence, accountability, and proximity


What you need to know before starting the course

List of Contents: Thematic Concepts Module 

  • Learning Journey and Expected Outcomes
  • Working Humanitarian Principles
  • Medical Ethics
  • Normative International Humanitarian Framework
  • Limitations and Challenges: Speaking Out and Humanitarian Principles 

List of contents: Case Study Module & Quiz

  • Introduction to the Case Study
  • MSF and the War in the Former Yugoslavia 
  • MSF and Srebrenica
  • Epilogue
  • Wrap Up and Next Steps
  • Quiz, Course Feedback, and Credentialing 

Approximately 5.5 to 7 hours


  • The topics are complex so plan to work over several sessions instead of all at once
  • Try to follow the structure sequentially as topics and the case study timeline build upon each other as you move through the module
  • Work at your own pace 
  • Module offers multimedia and interactive approaches
  • Knowledge checks and evaluations must be completed to proceed
  • A learning journal is provided with reflection questions
  • Suggested readings are provided at the end of each section if you want to explore particular topics further
  • Opportunity to stay in touch with the SOCS project and join the SOCS discussion forum on TEMBO for extended learning experiences 


  • A quiz score of 70% or better is required
  • Upon completion of the quiz and the course evaluation / feedback, you will be able to download your certificate / badge.

By the end of this module, you should gain the following competencies:

Knowledge competencies:

  1. Relate the concept of speaking out to the imperative to speak out based on humanitarian principles
  2. Assess how far humanitarian principles and ethics are compromised while formulating critical approaches to speaking out
  3. Understand how speaking out supports (and sometimes creates tension and trade-offs with) the humanitarian concepts that comprise the foundation of MSF’s work: the humanitarian imperative, respect for humanity, medical ethics, the normative international humanitarian framework, and MSF’s working principles
  4. Understand Speaking out in MSF and the normative international framework for humanitarian action, including international law

Skills Competencies

  1. Apply critical reflective processes to speaking out dilemmas
  2. Identify, compare, and analyse some of the dilemmas highlighted in the SOCS
  3. Apply critical thinking & leadership skills to real-life contemporary dilemmas
  • The Initial Module: “Introduction to MSF, SOCS, and Speaking Out” must be completed before proceeding to all other courses. It is a prerequisite for all SOCS learning modules.
  • All students - internal and external - must register on TEMBO, the MSF learning platform – to access the courses. Click on the button below to access TEMBO.
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