CEU Names Medecins Sans Frontieres Winner of 2016 CEU Open Society Prize

Budapest, May 26, 2016 – Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, known as Doctors Without Borders in English) has been named the winner of the 2016 CEU Open Society Prize in recognition of the courageous humanitarian leadership the organization has shown throughout the world. The award, given annually, was first presented to Sir Karl Popper in 1994. Subsequent winners include Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, Ricardo Lagos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Kristalina Georgieva and Richard C. Holbrooke. Two active MSF medical providers will receive the CEU Open Society Prize at CEU's 25th commencement ceremony in Budapest on June 25.

“MSF thanks CEU for this award, which we see as recognition of our independent and impartial work in nearly 70 countries. This is important to us at a time when humanitarian principles are being disregarded and hospitals in war zones are being bombed in blatant violation of international humanitarian law,” said MSF International President Joanne Liu. “Here in Europe, we see asylum laws being eroded and the rights and safety of people in flight being violated for the sake of national security concerns. European governments have failed to assist and protect people fleeing conflict in countries such as Syria. Today, by accepting this prize, which I dedicate to patients worldwide, I call upon European governments to respect human dignity and the fundamental right to seek asylum.”

Founded in 1971 in Paris, MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF was created in the belief that all people should have access to healthcare regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that people’s medical needs outweigh respect for national boundaries.

In October 2015, airstrikes partially destroyed an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan killing at least 42 people, including 24 patients, 14 staff members and 4 caretakers. Dozens more were wounded. At the end of April this year, airstrikes destroyed MSF-supported Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo, Syria, killing at least 55 men and women, including one of the last remaining pediatricians left in the embattled city. On May 3, Dr Liu presented to the UN Security Council imploring members to “stop these attacks.”

“MSF has consistently stood up to all sides of the world’s many conflicts on behalf of civilian populations,” said CEU Founder and Honorary Chairman George Soros. “Particularly now in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, MSF is delivering medical and humanitarian relief to people in need, and is facing attacks on their facilities by both international and local military forces.”

“MSF's unrelenting commitment to human rights is demonstrated every day by their crucial fieldwork and strong advocacy for the most vulnerable among us,” said CEU President and Rector John Shattuck. “MSF represents the values of open society in the midst of conflict, and its example will inspire CEU students at our 25th anniversary graduation.”

MSF's mission goes well beyond the current refugee crisis. The organization's activities include the treatment of injuries and disease, maternal care, vaccination campaigns and the provision of humanitarian aid. Where necessary, the organization sets up sanitation systems, supplies safe drinking water, and distributes relief to assist survival. MSF is present in 69 countries and, in 2015, their medical personnel conducted 8,664,700 outpatient consultations; assisted in 243,300 births; conducted 106,500 surgical interventions; treated 2,299,200 patients for malaria and 247,000 HIV patients on anti-retroviral medication; and they admitted 181,600 patients to malnutrition programs. In 1999, MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the organization used the prize money to raise awareness of and fight against neglected diseases. 

Image of Dr. Liu courtesy of Chatham House