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Think Out Loud

Negotiating Access To Crisis Zones

Pete Springer/OPB

This special hour of Think Out Loud was recorded at recent forum put on by Mercy Corps and Doctors Without Borders (also known as MSF).

The classic narrative of NGOs is that they fearlessly (and easily) venture into troubled places, set up shop, and help people in need. But this forum provided a more complicated view.

We pulled back the curtain to look at the kinds of negotiations and compromises that make it possible for NGOs to do their work in the first place. That might mean getting access to conflict zones, getting a buy-in from a local warlord, or deciding that an area is simply too dangerous to work in.

The overarching question was this: what principles might an organization be willing to sacrifice when it’s trying to make some corner of the world slightly better?


  • Colette Kerr: Portland-based nurse who has worked with MSF throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti since 2007
  • Myriam Khoury: Vice president for Strategic Program Development at Mercy Corps
  • Nick Lawson: Director of Field Human Resources for MSF-USA.
doctors without borders mercy corps ngos

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