Laurent Vidal is Director of Research at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), a major partner for the organisation of our yearly scientific seminar which took place this year in Yaounde. This Doctor in Anthropology expresses his interest in those all too rare moments when researchers and humanitarian practitioners meet.

As a researcher, you take part in a number of seminars. What is the particularity of the international seminar organised each year by the French Red Cross Foundation? What distinguishes it from other seminars?

Laurent VidalFor me, the Foundation’s seminar has two particularities. Firstly, it is a truly multi-actor seminar. This is intentional on behalf of the organisers and it is a reality. There are participants from very different contexts: the academic world in its entirety – researchers, faculty members -, humanitarian actors, of course, but also people from the United Nations system. The second characteristic of the seminar is the choice of setting. With utmost relevance, it takes place in countries where there is a strong humanitarian presence. This is the strength of the meeting. For Cameroon this year for example, humanitarian crises are raging in at least three regions in the country. Over the course of the three round table discussions, we had frank exchanges, without mincing our words, regarding the situation in the country and the method of governance action and action by international agencies. .

The IRD is a loyal partner of the Foundation. It is involved every year in the organisation of the Foundation’s international seminar, by way of its national representation offices. How would you like to see this partnership evolve?

LVThe current model of seminars must be preserved. Through our partnership and the events which we organise together, we must encourage each party – operational agents and researchers – to take distance from their respective subjects. Humanitarian actors must give more time to the analysis of their action and researchers, for their part, to the social utility of their studies, their results, asking themselves how their work can concretely enable an improvement in populations’ living conditions. This is the goal of our collaboration.


In your opinion, does humanitarian aid need research?

LVConversely, I would say that research needs to take humanitarian questions as its subjects. At the IRD in particular, we work on development issues, but these issues often present themselves in the form of crises, which absolutely call to mind humanitarian crises. From the moment that humanitarian aid becomes a subject of research, then I think that humanitarian aid should take the results of this research and take them into account in their decision-making processes and plans of action.