I created FXB International in 1989, 3 years after the death of my son François-Xavier BAGNOUD. His initials became our name.
Before this tragedy, I was a successful film producer in a world of men. I was also engaged in all the political movements of my time and close to Doctors Without Borders and later to Doctors of the World. But thank God, my son was always my priority!
François was a helicopter pilot who died on a mission aged 24, having already conducted more than 300 rescue missions in high mountains or dangerous situations. Providing assistance was his passion and mission. I wanted to honour his memory and keep his altruistic approach alive by selling ¾ of my possessions - which would in fact have been his inheritance - and allocating the proceeds to the François-Xavier Bagnoud Foundation.
60% of these initial funds were allocated to our humanitarian and development programmes across the world in the NGO FXB International, with administrative structures in Switzerland, the USA and France. The idea was to continue his passion for rescue and his generosity and compassionate values by transferring them - in the broadest sense of the term - into the development process.
From the start, FXB's objectives were to rescue children, aids orphans and then all children living in extreme poverty, deprived of their basic rights that should be given to them by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by their countries 20 years ago! Those children live in absolute destitution, and we help them pull through, and avoid them becoming child soldiers, prostitutes, drug dealers, or falling into criminality and sometimes terrorism in order to survive.
I like to say that we commit to the forgotten issues of forgotten people in forgotten places.
Initially I decided to implement an FXB Program for raising Aids Orphans in Uganda, in light of the work already undertaken by the President and Janet Museveni to combat AIDS in this country. Along with François' father, co-chair of FXB, we spent a lot of time in the field, asking the Semuto villagers a multitude of questions.
We engaged with the chiefs and grandparents from these villages who were tired and worn out but still found the strength to fight and raise orphans. With the help of our interpreter, I asked them: "How can we help you?" We discussed FXB's values and our approach. I explained in simple terms how we worked elsewhere, within the framework of the inextricable link between Health and Human Rights, a University PH paradigm and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Explaining how providing solo rights as they suggested, for example a hospital for health, or a school for education was not the solution. The solution was somehow to access all these rights at the same time because to be impactful and sustainable, rights must be linked. Education without food won't have an impact and healthcare without clean water won't be sustainable.
A widow got up and having understood the importance of linkage suggested "If that FXB gave me a cow, I could put more food on the table and sell the surplus in the market and use that money to pay the school fees". She had brought, without knowing it, a solution for enabling FXB to avoid having to pay year after year in order to raise the same group of children. It made us understand that a small enterprise had to be added. Its synergies added to the synergies of linked rights to make the results sustainable through the family and for FXB to be able to then invest in other families and bring up more children. -This embodies the philosophy of FXB's intervention, the development of people, which we have always applied, as opposed to hand-outs or charity.
On this basis, we developed our global intervention methodology «the FXB-Village program" focused on communities in a state of "extreme poverty", in particular children, those living in total destitution, those without education or life skills, drifting away from their societies whom we refer to as the "discarded generation".
From the outset, through constant dialogue which we implemented with our beneficiaries, teams and academics, and thanks to our daily experiences, we became more and more convinced that the only viable and efficient method for overcoming this extreme poverty was to provide the populations concerned with temporary global assistance, to target aid as a multifaceted system and stop random humanitarian actions which, albeit generous, are more like a band aid, can only have a temporary effect and can even be counter-productive, and are in no way sustainable. Instead to pull families out of extreme poverty and help them gain their economic independence and dignity.
I had deeply absorbed Dr Jonathan Mann's teaching in Harvard, who demonstrated the inextricable link between Health and Human Rights. He explained that public health policies could not be sustainable, nor have a significant impact if the people targeted by these policies did not have access to basic rights. He said that AIDS was the most obvious example.
I applied this public health paradigm in the field to development, adding an economic component so that families could replace FXB's aid by becoming autonomous economically.
What is the point of building a clinic if, once they return home, the patients have no drinking water? What is the point of building a school if, once they return home, children do not have enough food? How can they even study on an empty stomach? What is the point of teaching how to cultivate a field if you do not give the communities the means to preserve their crop, store it and take it to the market to sell? How can they be encouraged to build savings if you do not help them manage these savings?
To be effective, the aid and assistance brought to the most deprived populations must simultaneously provide all the fundamental rights which constitute Human Rights: food, health, education, housing, work, safety and respect. I insist that no tangible result can be achieved if this aid remains scattered, truncated, if humanitarian action is only the expression of a "patch-up", limited and temporary policy.
Our areas of intervention in Africa, China, India and Colombia are communities of approximately 500 adults and children, which we call "FXB-Villages" (so far we have developed more than 200 worldwide). We provide them with all the means necessary for their survival and well-being, but also - and this is very important as this is what makes our action sustainable over time and has nothing to do with handouts - the means to create and develop a professional activity (agriculture, livestock farming, a small shop, workshop etc.) which will allow them to progressively generate income and achieve autonomy within three years.
Our programmes last three years, the time necessary to help people out of destitution, pull them above the poverty line, and ensure long-term results. During that time we provide constant support through psycho social counselling, professional training, as well as basic education and training for the adults in hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. We are the step before micro credit.
During those three years, our NGO provides constant support to solve all the problems the community may encounter. We only employ local teams.
The strength and efficiency of our methodology reside in our global and simultaneous approach as well as the personalised support of our programmes' participants with our culture and philosophy: tender loving care in a family way with a great attention to details.
After three years, the success rate is nearly 90% ! I am talking about sustainable success, i.e. results which will persist over time instead of collapsing as soon as FXB leaves the region.
With this flagship "FXB-Village" programme, we are also fully committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Gender equality, for example, is at the heart of the achievement of Millennium Goals. It is a prerequisite for overcoming hunger, poverty and disease. Giving women an equal voice in the decisions which affect their life and that of their families means giving them the key to their autonomy. In India, I noticed that in the rural FXB-Village of Andhra Pradesh, women, who are beaten and badly treated by drunkard husbands, now divorce and take the family's well-being into their hands.
Again in India for instance, we have recently inaugurated two low-cost sanitary pad production units. The elevated cost of and difficult access to sanitary pads force women to use soiled rags during their periods. This is detrimental to women's dignity and has disastrous consequences on health: genital ulcers, infections or infertility.
To tackle this health scourge, FXB India launched its first two low-cost Sanitary Towel Production Units in 2011, as part of the small businesses developed in the FXB-Villages of Uppada and Villupuram.
These initiatives have a double effect. Firstly they create long-term employment, as these workshops are run by about twenty women who were given technical and health training.
Secondly, these initiatives have a direct impact on women's health in communities which did not have access to this product.
Another example that comes to mind is the African women whom we helped to manage small restaurants for truck drivers and workers which generate substantial income. Contributing to the local economy with full-time salaried employees, they have made the transition from destitute individuals to micro-entrepreneurs, often creating jobs.
FXB is not only an efficient development organisation, it is also a culture put into action. We firmly believe this is one of the keys to its long-term success. Our culture encompasses and applies the fundamental articles of all existing conventions on human rights. - We also lobby for the worldwide application of these conventions.
Creating this Association with my own funds has enabled me to remain independent, free to take on whatever I think worthwhile by using my empathy, academic knowledge, common sense and above all by remaining true to my values and this spirit of sharing.
It is this spirit of independence and action, always at the core of the FXB culture, the determination to be pioneers, that has led me today to write a new page of the FXB history.
The FXB-Village Methodology is a tool used for developing micro-economy and human capabilities self-sufficiency. If its structure were to be replicated on a larger scale, it could be a formidable tool to contribute to eradicate poverty in the long term.
So it does not make sense to remain the exclusive owners of our Methodology and of our know how. This is my commitment that I wish to share with you today to conclude. We are in the process of putting together a manual of the methodology so as to share it with the world at large.
Humanitarian aid is at the dawn of a new era: that of transmission of know-how, of administrative, financial, and all other capacities of leadership, an expertise to be transmitted to field, local staff and local governments.
I deeply believe in this as I deeply reject ongoing assistance that does not lead to responsible autonomy. I am transforming the organisation from a vertical process of decision making and responsibility to a horizontal one, sharing the same goals and values. - I am deeply convinced that people who need to be helped have in themselves all the resources to lead if we intelligently accompany them down the road to take their destiny into their own hands.
Humanitarian aid will only reach its goal when it is no longer needed. This can only be achieved if both governments and NGOs have their eyes wide open to see that: the only effective humanitarian approach is a comprehensive approach, which brings all necessary means and tools to communities so they can empower themselves. This is the meaning of 'empowering people': we need to consider those populations not as beneficiaries, but as participants of their own development project, which involves the entire extended family.
I believe that the future of humanitarianism lies not in an endless pursuit to continue its efforts, but much more in transferring its methods, experience and lessons to communities and governments to act together in very tight and equal partenerships.
Thank you for your attention
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