Photo conférence Myfanwy James

MSF and Humanitarian Negotiations for Access in the DRC


Myfanwy is a lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Oxford. She holds a DPhil from the Oxford Department of International Development, a master degree in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics as well as a bachelor degree in History from the University of Bristol. Her work focuses on humanitarianism, conflict and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Conference and debate, June 28th, 2022, from 18:30 to 20:30 (Paris time), MSF (salle du premier, 14-34 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris). The conference was livestreamed and translated simultaneously to English.

We were pleased to welcome Myfanwy James, historian and lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Oxford, to present and discuss her thesis entitled “Instruments of Identity: Médecins Sans Frontières and Humanitarian Negotiations for Access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC)”. Dr Léon Salumu, Program Manager for the DRC at MSF France, took part in the debate.

Result of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in North Kivu amongst Médecins Sans Frontières teams as well as an exploration of the organization’s archives, Myfanwy’s thesis analyses the experience of MSF’s Congolese employees who must navigate the complex politics of humanitarian brokerage. What is their role in humanitarian negotiations? How do they balance between one identity and another, as employees of a humanitarian organization and as people immersed in the conflicts that have been affecting the region for decades? What is the specific situation of women?

Myfanwy shows how MSF’s Congolese employees embody the many contradictions that are present in humanitarian work, including the simultaneous need for operational “proximity” while also maintaining adequate distance from daily conflict processes. Her thesis allows us to better understand the everyday practices of security management and negotiations for access conducted by organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières. This work also comes at a time when inequality and diversity are at the forefront of discussions within the humanitarian sector, and her reflections are essential to understanding issues of “colonial continuities” in humanitarian action.

You can find a chapter of Myfanwy’s thesis in Volume 2: Issue 2 of the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs. A video presentation of her study is also available.


To cite this content :
Myfanwy James, “MSF and Humanitarian Negotiations for Access in the DRC”, 28 juin 2022, URL :

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