In the last week of February 2021, Bernard Kouchner, Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, former Foreign Minister of France and Aurora Prize Selection Committee member, traveled to Armenia and Artsakh at the invitation of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative that continues to bring the world humanitarian leaders to the region. Dr. Kouchner was accompanied by French humanitarians Alain Boinet, founder of Solidarités International, and Patrice Franceschi, former Chairman of the Société des Explorateurs Français, with whom he has been working for the last decades.
During the visit, Dr. Kouchner has stressed out that one can get anywhere if they are really willing to help the people. “The difficult thing regarding going to Nagorno-Karabakh is the wish whether you want to help people or not; whether you want to see the people or not; whether you want to understand people or not,” said the French humanitarian. “As a founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and Doctors of the World, [along with] my friends who have been humanitarian volunteers for years and years, we expected to see and to discover the war situation with all suffering and tears and broken families and also sort of the energy to fight against circumstances, and the pity, and the sorrows. We were expecting that.”
Through his work, Mr. Kouchner has been almost to every corner of the world and, in his own words, has been “involved in almost all the wars and massacres that have been going on for over 50 years.” He has certainly seen enough conflicts to understand that the situation in Artsakh is not just a humanitarian issue, but first and foremost, a political challenge that requires a political solution: “I hope we will find a way. We will fight to find a solution through a dialogue. It’s always difficult. Sometimes it’s impossible to imagine a dialogue between enemies, but we have to. It takes time.”
Dr. Kouchner highly appreciated the efforts of the Aurora to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the people of Artsakh and to support sustainable social development projects in the region. Mr. Kouchner and his delegation had a chance to take a closer look at the humanitarian projects in the region supported by Aurora and to talk to the representatives of those projects.
Coming back from Artsakh, Bernard Kouchner and his colleagues spent a day in Dilijan, meeting with the students of UWC Dilijan and answering the questions related to their future careers. Later in Yerevan, Bernard Kouchner, Alain Boinet and Patrice Franceschi were asked to take part in an informal talk, “A Life for Humanitarian Aid,” in the French University in Armenia (UFAR). They also paid tribute to the 10 students who had lost their lives in the 2020 Artsakh war.
“When you are involved in the humanitarian world, you are not looking for diplomas, you are not looking for medals. […] You are looking for the discovery of yourself in helping others. You are obliged to break the doors to meet the suffering of others. We did it for fifty years. The beginning of the organization [Médecins Sans Frontières] was a meeting of five people in a little office. And now, this an international organization. Don’t wait for success – it will be offered in addition,” said Mr. Kouchner recalling the establishment of Médecins Sans Frontières and its journey.
Bernard Kouchner and his colleagues also took part in the Aurora Dialogues event titled “Global and Regional Crisis Management” organized on February 26, 2021, at the Yerevan State Medical University in Armenia. Prior to the discussion, Bernard Kouchner was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Yerevan State Medical University for his exceptional humanitarian actions across the globe.
In the last decades, the world and its priorities have changed dramatically, but humanitarian crises haven’t receded. Humanitarians have had and still have a lot on their plate. Having created one of the most powerful humanitarian healthcare organizations 50 years ago, Bernard Kouchner has a lot to reflect upon: “In that time, many more wars were going on, but there was a huge concern about massacres, killings, about crimes against humanity and about genocide. Now, there are much fewer wars or war situations, but less interest for human rights and less protest.”
As a member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, Bernard Kouchner has no doubt that Aurora contributes to the better world and has already done a lot by discovering unsung heroes and supporting the best part of the humanity.
“At my humble level, I’m part of the decision. […] It is very difficult to make a choice, because the list of the people Aurora wants to reward is a fantastic contribution for the best of humanity, [for] awakening humanity. Aurora was invented by the Armenian people telling us that Armenians are not only a group of victims. They have the imagination and strength to change this actual world into a better world by generosity and support for these people. Aurora is the best part of Armenian people, the magic part. You should count on them.”