Methodology

The Speaking Out case studies (also known as SOCS) is a reference document initially created to help MSF volunteers understand and adopt the organisation’s culture of speaking out.

“Témoignage” (bearing witness) cannot be reduced to a mechanical application of rules and procedures as it involves an understanding of the dilemmas inherent in every instance of humanitarian action. Therefore, it was decided to produce cases studies instead of a set of guidelines.

These case studies focuses on crisis in which speaking out posed a dilemma for MSF and thus meant taking a risk.

Key information sources – MSF volunteers’ written and oral recollections — are reconstructed by highlighting documents from the period concerned and interviewing the main actors.

The individuals interviewed  speak in the language they choose, they offer both their account of events and their assessment of MSF’s response. The interviews are recorded and transcribed.

Document searches are conducted in the MSF archives and, as far as possible, press archives.

The research is constrained by practical and financial issues, including locating interviewees and securing their agreement and determining the existence, quality and quantity of archived materials.

The methodology aims at establishing the facts and setting out a chronological presentation of the positions adopted at the time. It enables the reconstruction of debates and dilemmas without pre-judging the quality of the decisions made.

The main text describes events in chronological order. It includes excerpts from documents and interviews, linked by brief introductions and transitional passages. We rely on document extracts to establish the facts as MSF described and perceived them at the time. When documentation is missing, interviews sometimes fill the gaps. These accounts also provide a human perspective on the events and insight into the key players’ analysis.

Preceding the main texts collected, the reader will find a map, a list of abbreviations and an introduction that lays out the context of MSF’s public statements and the key dilemmas they sought to address.

In addition, a detailed chronology reconstructs MSF’s actions and public statements in regional and international news reports of the period. Specifically related to this document it is not intended to be comprehensive.

The Speaking Out Case Studies were essentially designed as an educational tool for members of the organisation. With the hope of broadening their educational scope the studies are now being made available on this website to the public for free in French and English.