Marianna Fotaki is Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School. Before joining academia in 2003 she worked as a medical doctor in Greece, China, and the UK; as a volunteer and manager for humanitarian organisations Médecins du Monde and Médecins sans Frontiers in Iraq and Albania; and as the EU senior resident adviser to governments in transition in Russia, Georgia and Armenia. Marianna also co-directs pro bono online think tank the Centre for Health and the Public Interest, a charity that disseminates research informing the public and policy makers.
You volunteered for Médecins du Monde and Médecins sans Frontiers, helping refugees fleeing Iraq after the Gulf war. Are there any similarities between today’s refugee crisis and the situation you experienced back then?
The situations all refugees find themselves in share certain characteristics: they don’t choose to be in those circumstances – they are just normal people leading normal lives who become under threat and are forced to flee at very short notice, leaving everything behind They don’t know what the future holds for them, and they harbour the hope of returning to their home country one day.
After the Gulf war broke out in 1991, I worked on the Turkish-Iraqi border where hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees lived in the mountains in very harsh conditions. More recently, my son [also an LSE graduate] volunteered to help Syrian refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. The situations he described were painfully similar to those I witnessed 25 years earlier.
Refugees have to rely on the kindness of strangers, but aid isn’t always well coordinated – different organisations have different agendas, goals and conceptions. Nonetheless, there is something genuinely admirable in how volunteers from across the world come to help their fellow human beings. And in doing so, they are addressing the inefficiency, inability or unwillingness of states that fail to give an appropriate response. I explore this issue further in my recent TEDx talk Turning Fear to Purpose.
Read the full interview with Marianna Fotaki