Key to many humanitarian organizations is the idea of medical neutrality, wherein a group is allowed to treat the sick, injured, and otherwise incapacitated inside places of turmoil without interruption. This is done in exchange for neutrality in a conflict; the group gives its aid indiscriminately to those who need it, regardless of whether the patient is a supporter of one side, the other, or simply neutral. Taking its roots from the Geneva Conventions, this is the basis of current humanitarian aid.
Médecins Sans Frontières takes its role as a dispenser of aid very seriously, and, thus, it does not allow itself to side with any party. Even though it has, perhaps, acquired an almost elitist reputation, Médecins Sans Frontières continues to be an independent organization; though it will affiliate and work with other groups, Médecins Sans Frontières is first and foremost itself.
By stressing its independence from governments and organizations aligned with governments or those with a personal stake in the places where there is need, Médecins Sans Frontières frees itself from any economic or political obligations which may result from such affiliations. It also allows Médecins Sans Frontières to establish itself as a separate entity in the minds of the citizens—a safe haven, where one can seek aid without repercussions.
A glaring example of why Médecins Sans Frontières continues to remain primarily independent is the Iraq War. As Nicolas de Torrente, Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, explains in his article "Humanitarian Action Under Attack: Reflections on the Iraq War," there have been attacks on aid agencies attempting to provide relief to the cities of the country. He connects the attacks with the United States government's political maneuvering in declaring humanitarian aid as supporting its cause. In essence, the United States government violated medical neutrality by causing the people of Iraq to associate independent humanitarian aid with the United States's political and economic agenda, thereby painting targets on what should have been neutral organizations.
Medical neutrality exists to support the unseen victims of war, the civilians, and the breach of that principle only brings disaster. Because of its devotion to its cause, Médecins Sans Frontières continues to remain staunchly neutral with no desire to aid either side of a conflict, no matter how "good" and "righteous" one side claims to be. It is one of the cornerstones of not only Médecins Sans Frontières but also any humanitarian organization with a true desire to help.
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