He's saved the lives of more people than you and I will ever meet, invented and personified the world changing idea of humanitarian intervention and founded a charity that won the Nobel Peace Prize. His outspoken and uncompromising approach to human rights and emergency medical assistance are acclaimed all over the world.

Bernard Kouchner's journey from May '68 firebrand to French Minister for Foreign Affairs (a job he left a month ago) has been one of unstinting principle and growing responsibility. Ruffling feathers where necessary, Kouchner has no fear of authority, especially in parts of the world where unimaginable suffering goes untreated.

His guiding theory that suffering is as globalised as finance has become accepted practice but when he started out it was not only unknown it was also illegal. As founder and first president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Kouchner personally lead emergency humanitarian missions to Cambodia, Thailand, Rwanda and Somalia among many others. Facing considerable personal danger and usually in the face of official opposition MSF has a noble history of saving lives in hostile and unpredictable situations.

It has 'brought medical relief teams into the worst disaster areas and bloodiest war zones defying ruthless armed combatants and treating suffering victims without regard to their politics'.

Kouchner is also absolutely right when he says 'the universal spirit of the enlightenment should run through the new media'. Technology has an extraordinary power and perhaps therefore a responsibility to connect people. What Kouchner's statement implies is new media should be subject to the same searching, restless spirit of enquiry and principle he has tried to follow all his life.

He is a committed internationalist, believing passionately in the United Nations and International Criminal Court for example. His firm belief is that the weight of global public opinion and the light of reason are the most powerful agents for change we have. His rallying cry 'Never accept the suffering of others' should get us all out of our chairs and engaged with the world.

Since 1988 Kouchner has been in various jobs as a member of the French government, serving as Minister for Health, UN representative in Kosovo and until very recently Minister for Foreign Affairs. In these roles he has often been controversial, having little regard for bureaucratic niceties and being constantly focused on bringing people together to talk.

He has long been the most popular (if radical) politician in France and we can't wait to find out what he's going to do next.

Bernard Kouchner will be at TEDx Brussels on December 6

John Fass

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