The U.S. executive director of Doctors Without Borders, known globally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), knows firsthand the logistical and political difficulties humanitarian organizations run into these days. Sophie Delaunay, MSF director for the past two years and this year’s Senior Nitze Fellow at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, will give the first of three public talks at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in the college’s Auerbach Auditorium of St. Mary’s Hall.
MSF was created by doctors and journalists in 1971 to send volunteer medical help to people threatened by disease and war in more than 60 countries. In her talk, “Humanitarian Action and the Politics of Compromise,” Delaunay will reflect on the organization’s medical humanitarian responses in the war-torn nations of Sri Lanka, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and explain how MSF justifies its difficult political choices. Delaunay will also address how the political landscape has changed from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror.
“The principle of providing independent and impartial medical care to people trapped by wars, epidemics, or natural disasters regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or political ideology that guides the work of MSF medical teams around the world has really taken hold in the U.S.,” Delaunay has said. “MSF has been to me and has remained over time, the most formidable professional and human adventure that I could imagine undertaking.”
The Nitze Scholars Program focuses on leadership and public service; Nitze Fellows are chosen based on their achievements and position in society. “What interested me about her organization was the international aspect of it, since Ambassador Nitze was a globalist and so passionately a globalist,” said Michael Taber, professor of philosophy and director of the Nitze Scholars Program. “An organization like Doctors Without Borders speaks to that spirit, that global spirit that was so important to Ambassador Nitze.”
The talk is free and open to the public.