Humanitarian Profile: Bernard Kouchner

Bernard Kouchner (1939 – ) is a French doctor, diplomat and politician who is currently serving as the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders.

During the 1968 Nigerian Civil War, Koucher worked as physician for the Red Cross in Biafra.  Afterwards, he was part of a small group of French doctors who founded Médecins Sans Frontières, based on the belief that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders.

In 1980, he split with MSF due to philisophical reasons and founded another organization, Médecins du Monde (MDM), also known as Doctors of the World. as he felt that MSF had given up its founding principle of témoignage (witnessing), which allowed aid workers to make public the atrocities they had observed, and moved towards a more neutral approach. In contrast, MDM maintains that humanitarian aid cannot be separated from politics, or else the aid may become misused by politicians.


Bernard Kouchner, from an introduction at the Carnegie Foundation, 2005

Médecins Sans Frontières

Médecins du Monde

University of Hawaii at Manoa; Center of Excellence in DMHA; ICRC

Contact Information

Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 118
Honolulu, HI 96822