IR - One Definition A Day: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) - Doctors Without BordersEstablished in 1971 by a group of former International Red Cross (IRC) medics, MSF is now the world's largest non-governmental organization (NGO) providing emergency medical relief. Consisting mainly of doctors, nurses, surgeons and logistical experts it has six operational sections in Europe and twelve branches world-wide. It is an independent body but it often works in conjunction with other humanitarian agencies, notably the IRC and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). It maintains a strictly impartial status and believes in the cosmopolitan notion of an absolute right to humanitarian assistance. It scorns the Westphalian principle of non-intervention and, if necessary, is prepared to work clandestinely with people in need, and to speak out publicly against human rights abusers. Apart from providing medical refief in man-made conflicts or in natural emergencies, the bulk of MSF work is in primary health care. It is therefore not a one-shot operation; an important part of its remit is reconstruction and long-term amelioration of local conditions. In 1997 the MSF's largest relief effort was in Rwanda where it had 360 expatriate volunteers and over 1'500 support staff in Burundi, Tanzania, and Zaire. Other recent major emergency missions include Bosnia, Angola, Sudan and Afghanistan.
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