Operational advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières

We stay as far away from politics as possible

Martin Sloot, aged 39 
Graduated in 1992
Operational advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières

Photo: Martine Albitrouw

Martin Sloot’s first expat’ experience with Doctors without Borders (MsF) was in Afghanistan, in 2001. His job was to provide logistical support for the project there. He had to make sure the cars worked properly, that there were medicines available for the doctors, that there was accommodation for the expat’s, etc. Via projects in Colombia and Kashmir he became project coordinator in Burundi and was responsible for the whole project there. Later, in Ivory Coast he became the Head of Mission, who is responsible for all MsF projects in the country. Finally Martin decided to go home to The Netherlands to work for a while, where there was a job available for him at the organization’s head office in Amsterdam. As Operational Adviser he supports the people in the field.

Even though Martin is a political scientist by training, in his job he keeps as far away from politics as possible, because independence and neutrality are crucial for an organization like MsF. His education is useful, though: “To be able to control a project as well as you can, you need to learn about the power relations in the country you’re working in, and about the role of the different parties involved, a their relation to the people, their needs and motivations. For that, my education has proved very useful.” Moreover, MsF is not only a medical emergency aid organization; it is also a humanitarian aid organization. Martin’s experience with scientific research comes in very handy for that. Based on experience, observation and medical reports, MsF sometimes decides to reveal where human rights are being seriously violated in an area, like access to health care. That may mean that they will be sent away from the area, but in some cases they can do nothing else but risk that threat.

In between finishing the programme in Political Science and his start with MsF Martin had various jobs. He worked for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, and freelance for the Information Office of the Ministery of Foreign Affairs, where he conducted research on the image Dutch children have of third world countries. After travelling for one year from Costa Rica through Panama and Colombia to the south of the South American continent, he accepted a consultancy job in environmental communication. “I’m interested in communication and image-forming,” says Martin. “In how you can best communicate a message. And I’m intrigued by power and influence, and how people deal with that. I was able to combine both interests in both my education and in my career.”