François Jean left a mark on Médecins Sans Frontières. He was probably the only one who didn’t know this, as he hated drawing attention to himself. He also probably would have asked why in the world we decided to gather the texts and discussions he had given over the course of 17 years of work with MSF. He was not concerned with his legacy, which is why he never went to the trouble of collecting his works in one place. This was only made possible because of the great patience and tenacity of Cécile Lapérou, and then Marie Le Page. They deserve wholehearted thanks.
Their editing reveals his piercing insight into the key situations and themes that marked the evolution of contemporary humanitarian action. François explored, questioned, and shed light on the field of international aid, from the famine in Ethiopia to the one in North Korea, from the Lome accords to the right to intervene, from humanitarians in war zones to humanitarian wars. Far from moralizing, animated by a permanent restlessness about action and its uncertainties, he always remained a calm and lucid practitioner, anxious to understand and to act, without ever sacrificing one to the other. The texts that follow attest to the fruitfulness of his doubts and the relevance of his critical reflections.
François put an end to his own days on December 25, 1999—a dark day, a day of storms. The homage we pay him here in the form of a publication is not an act of piety but rather one of profound and sincere recognition. Thank you, François, for who you were, for what you brought to us, and for what you have left us.
Rony Brauman, 2004