Operations and debates

It’s amazing how time flies…

It’s amazing how time flies…

Now the calendar says March, and March is the time of FAD - the Field Association Debate. This is the first time that I will be taking part in a FAD; on my first mission in Ethiopia I arrived more or less when it was taking place, so it was difficult to follow.

The issue with FAD is that it has been a bit tricky for me to figure out! The structure of MSF can be complex for newcomers. So, to fill you readers in:

FAD, as mentioned, means Field Association Debate.

The FAD is rooted in the MSF Associations - groups of MSFers who govern the organisation. So, being from Denmark, I would be part of the Danish Association, which again is linked to an operational centre/executive branch (Paris, Bruxelles, Geneva, Amsterdam or Barcelona).

The purpose of the Associations is to make sure that the executive stays on track with MSF principles, ethics and to explore if major strategic changes should take place. The image below might give you a better idea of the organisation.

The FADs take place each year, in every country where MSF is present (unless circumstances make it impossible). In previous years, a topic was set for all FADs in all MSF mission countries to discuss. This topic was set by the International board (an associative body). However, this year, we have tried to change this.

This is very much in the spirit of MSF, because it is now the field staff who suggest topics. The Association is very much about debating and discussing how MSF functions, and how we should improve our work.

But first; how do we choose a topic? Well, I am not saying that is easy. And with this being the first time that field staff have been asked to suggest topics, I am sure that it is challenging for them.

It is important to keep the overall picture of the work of MSF when choosing topics. It is easy to have your mind set on day-to-day issues but it is important to think in terms of the MSF charter and the broader challenges our field projects face. So, maybe it could be about security, how to keep our neutrality and still be able to speak out, or even when to start assistance in conflict areas.

In South Sudan all MSF operational centres are present. This is very interesting for the FAD because it means we will have a joint FAD across the sections, encompassing more debates and more views.

At this point in time, we have asked all the field projects to come up with suggestions for topics to debate. So far, we have received quite a lot. Next week, three to four topics will be chosen here in Juba and then communicated to the field. These topics will be debated during what we call MINI-FADs in the fields. The MINI-FAD is open to everybody working in the projects. It is usually one afternoon where all staff are welcome (national staff, expats, and former staff being member of the association). A few staff from each project will be asked/selected to participate in the FAD in Juba to represent their project and to continue the discussion.

The actual FAD is two days in mid-March and the motions set out in the end will be presented at a GA (General Assembly) in whichever place that is held. Once the GA finishes and the Associate approves the motion, there will be recommendations sent to the executive branches for implementation.

For MSF, South Sudan is one of the countries with most activities. So, I am sure that the topics debated here will have an impact on the GA.

Being in the middle of the process, it is funny to work with the other sections and see how different everybody’s experiences are, and we have to find a common ground. Everybody is open to new ideas, so that helps to facilitate the process! But besides finding topics, we have to organise the practicalities of the FAD in Juba; finding a conference room big enough to house everybody (we will maybe be around 70 people), transportation for everyone, food, etc…  we will most likely have visitors from Headquarters or the Associations as well.

So, an interesting time in Juba on the Human Resources side…