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Bernard Kouchner (born 1 November 1939) is a French politician and physician. He is the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Médecins du Monde. From 2007 until 2010, he was the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs in the center-right Fillon government under president Nicolas Sarkozy, although he had been in the past a minister in socialist governments. In 2010, the Jerusalem Post considered Bernard Kouchner the 15th most influential Jew in the world.[1] Since 2015 Kouchner is workstream leader for the AMU (Agency for the Modernisation of Ukraine), where he contributes his expertise in healthcare. [2]

Bernard Kouchner
Réception pour les Français de Shanghai 20100430 - 21.jpg
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
In office
17 May 2007 – 13 November 2010
Prime Minister François Fillon
Preceded by Philippe Douste-Blazy (Foreign and European Affairs)
Succeeded by Michèle Alliot-Marie
1st Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo
In office
15 July 1999 – 12 January 2001
Preceded by Sérgio Vieira de Mello
Succeeded by Hans Hækkerup
Minister of Health
In office
2 April 1992 – 29 March 1993
Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy
Preceded by Claude Evin
Succeeded by Simone Veil
Personal details
Born (1939-11-01) 1 November 1939 (age 78)
Avignon, France
Political party Independent (2007–present)
Other political
Socialist Party (1966–2007)
Communist Party (Before 1966)
Spouse(s) Évelyne Pisier (?-?; 3 children)
Christine Ockrent (1 child)
Profession Physician


Humanitarian actionsEdit

Kouchner was born in Avignon, to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, he began his political career as a member of the French Communist Party (PCF), from which he was expelled in 1966 for attempting to overthrow the leadership.[3] On a visit to Cuba in 1964, Kouchner spent the night fishing and drinking with Fidel Castro.[4] In the protests of May 1968, he ran the medical faculty strike committee at the Sorbonne. Kouchner has three children (Julie, Camille and Antoine) by his first wife, Évelyne Pisier, a professor of law, and one child, Alexandre, by his present wife Christine Ockrent, a television journalist. He worked as a physician for the Red Cross in Biafra in 1968 (during the Nigerian Civil War). His experience as a physician for the Red Cross led him to co-found Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in 1971, and then, due to a conflict of opinion with MSF chairman Claude Malhuret, he established Doctors of the World ('Médecins du Monde') in 1980. Kouchner worked as a humanitarian volunteer during the Siege of Naba’a refugee camp in Lebanon in East Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War taking risks that "other foreign aid workers weren’t, even worked closely with the Shia cleric Imam Musa al-Sadr".[5]

Minister in left-wing governmentsEdit

From 1988, he began his government career in Socialist governments, though he was not always a member of the French Socialist Party. He became "Secrétaire d'état", a lower position in the Cabinet, for Humanitarian Action in 1988, then Minister of Health in 1992, under Mitterrand's presidency. Later, he continued his political career in the European Parliament. Between 1993 and 1997, France was governed by right governments.

When Lionel Jospin became Prime Minister in 1997, he became Minister of Health for the second time.

UN Representative in KosovoEdit

On 15 July 1999, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1244, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan nominated Kouchner as the second UN Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).[6] During 18 months, he led UN efforts to create a new civil administration and political system replacing the Serbian ones, and to rebuild the economy shattered by the Kosovo War. Thus, municipal councils were elected at local level by the end of 2000.[7] He was replaced on 21 January 2001 by Danish Social Democrat Hans Hækkerup. He became at this time Minister of Health for the third time, until the 2002 Elections. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pristina for his services to Kosovo.

On the U.S.-led invasion of IraqEdit

Kouchner is a longtime advocate of humanitarian intervention. In early 2003, he pronounced himself in favour of removing Saddam Hussein as President of Iraq, arguing that interference against dictatorship should be a global priority, and continued to say that now, the focus should be on the actual people themselves, and that they are the only ones who could answer yes or no to war.

In a 4 February 2003 editorial with Antoine Veil in Le Monde, entitled "Neither War Nor Saddam", Kouchner said that he was opposed to the impending War in Iraq, and, as the title suggests, to the remaining in power of Saddam Hussein, the removal of whom should be accomplished via a concerted UN, preferably diplomatic, solution.[8][9]

On EuropeEdit

Kouchner is a well-known pro-European. He supported the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty when it was threaten to be rejected by the Irish in referendum.[10] Recently, he co-signed the George Soros call for a strengthening of the European prerogatives as an answer to the eurozone crisis.[11]

Candidate for UN positionsEdit

In 2005, Kouchner was a candidate for the position of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but lost the appointment in favor of former Portuguese Prime Minister, António Guterres, who was nominated by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In 2006, Kouchner was also a candidate to become Director-General of the World Health Organisation.[12] He lost before the final election round, and (Hong Kong) Chinese candidate Margaret Chan was later elected.

French Foreign MinisterEdit

After the election of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, Kouchner was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in François Fillon's government, even though Kouchner supported Sarkozy's Socialist rival Ségolène Royal during the campaign. He has since been expelled from the Socialist Party for his acceptance of the post.[13] He was dismissed in the November 2010 Fillon cabinet reshuffle.

Comments on Iran nuclear situationEdit

In September 2007, Kouchner's public comments on the Iranian nuclear situation attracted much attention and controversy. In an interview on 16 September 2007, he said, "We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves [...] for the worst...The worst, it's war".[14] He stated that France was committed to a diplomatic resolution and that no military action was planned, but that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose "a real danger for the whole world".[15] Iranian officials criticized the comments as "inflammatory".[14] The chief UN nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency indirectly responded to Kouchner by characterizing talk of attacking Iran as "hype", saying the use of force should only be considered as a last resort and only if authorized by the UN Security Council.[16]

"I would not talk about any use of force", he said. On 18 September 2007, Kouchner attempted to respond to criticisms. In comments to newspaper Le Monde, he stated, "I do not want it to be said that I am a warmonger! [...] My message was a message of peace, of seriousness and of determination. [...] The worst situation would be war. To avoid that, the French attitude is to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, without fear of being rebuffed, and to work with our European friends on credible sanctions."[17]

Comments on the Irish ratification of the Treaty of LisbonEdit

In the run up to the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, Kouchner warned that any "No" vote towards the treaty would be detrimental to Ireland and the Irish economy. He also commented that "It would be very, very awkward if we were not able to count on the Irish, who have often counted on Europe".[18] His comments were dismissed as "unhelpful" by leading Irish politicians, and some media commentators have suggested that his remarks may have galvanised the "No" campaign in the run up to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty on 13 June 2008.[19]

Comments on the European Union and a unity government for ZimbabweEdit

On 1 July 2008, France assumed presidency of the Council of the European Union. In his capacity as the French foreign minister, he commented after the African Union summit, that The European Union would only recognise a Zimbabwe unity government headed by Morgan Tsvangirai not Robert Mugabe.[20]

Use of condoms to prevent AIDS in AfricaEdit

Kouchner denounced statements by Pope Benedict XVI claiming that condoms promoted AIDS, saying they were "the opposite of tolerance and understanding".[21]

Positions heldEdit



  1. ^ Linde, Steve (21 May 2010). "World's 50 most influential Jews". Jerusalem Post. 15. Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Minister. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Nouveau Grub Street, The Economist, 31 May 2007 (in English)
  4. ^ A Statesman Without Borders, The New York Times Magazine, 3 February 2008 (in English)
  5. ^ Long, Taylor (20 July 2007). "Civil society represents Kouchner's conscience, says doctor". 
  6. ^ "Biography Bernard Kouchner". UN. Archived from the original on 27 October 2006. 
  7. ^ "What is UNMIK?". UN. Archived from the original on 11 November 2006. 
  8. ^ Le Monde, 4 February 2003, Ni la guerre ni Saddam Archived 7 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Le Monde, 18 May 2007, La dernière mission du docteur Kouchner
  10. ^ Bernard Kouchner : "Tout le monde se tourne vers l'Europe au moment où on la refuse à l'intérieur", retrieved on 13 February 2012.
  11. ^,Authorised=false.html? As concerned Europeans we urge eurozone leaders tounite retrieved on 13 February 2012.
  12. ^ Brown, David (5 November 2006). "Field of 11 Candidates Competes to Head WHO". Washington Post. 
  13. ^ France New's Government – A study in perpetual motion, The Economist, June 23, 2007 (in English)
  14. ^ a b Iran scorns French warning of war, BBC News, 17 September 2007
  15. ^ After Talk of War, Cooler Words in France on Iran, New York Times; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  16. ^ ElBaradei concerned over Iran row BBC Sep17, 2007
  17. ^ Der Spiegel. September 17, 2007.
  18. ^ Der Spiegel 11 June 2008
  19. ^ France 24 Archived 16 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. 13 June 2008
  20. ^ AFP: EU will only accept Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe leader: Kouchner Archived 11 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. 1 July 2008
  21. ^ Pope protesters, supporters clash in France
  22. ^ Invitation to the awarding of the "Victor Gollancz Prize" to Bernard Kouchner Archived 18 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine.,

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Claude Evin
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Simone Veil
Preceded by
Philippe Douste-Blazy
as Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
Succeeded by
Michèle Alliot-Marie
Preceded by
Dimitrij Rupel
President of the Council of the European Union
Succeeded by
Karel Schwarzenberg