July 2008 marked the start of what the witnesses describe as “a true human adventure"

The Crisis Centre (CDCS) of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs was created on 2 July 2008 at a time when the world was facing frequent crises increasingly (security, climate, humanitarian, political, health, etc.).

This year marks the Crisis Centre’s tenth anniversary. It is a fitting time to look back at the major events of the previous decade that best illustrate what the CDCS does and to talk with those who work hard to keep it functioning every day. This is also an opportunity to showcase the activities of an atypical department at the Ministry whose actions go well beyond crisis periods as they begin well before and end long after any given crisis.

The CDC was formed following the merging of two departments

The CDC was formed following the merging of two departments, one in charge of security for French citizens abroad and the other responsible for humanitarian action. It mobilizes and coordinates the resources of the Ministry and its partners, other ministries and private institutions in the event of a crisis abroad.
Its main missions are to assist French citizens who are in danger, travelling or living abroad and to support local populations in need upon request and in conjunction with the local authorities. In 2014, the CDC’s role was expanded to include stabilization and post-crisis support missions. To better reflect all aspects of its missions, its name was changed to the Crisis and Support Centre (CDCS).

The missions

Responding to disasters and crises

Crisis management was not new for the ministry but it was able to build on what was there already to create a new momentum which is more structured, more organized, more coordinated...

The Crisis Centre has a simple but ambitious mission: effectively coordinate France’s response to disasters and crises and minimize the consequences. The CDCS is the single point of contact for local diplomatic posts, families and various French government authorities.

As a permanent structure, the Crisis Centre responds to emergency situations abroad. It has several different units:
- The Preparedness and Partnerships Department develops analysis tools for crisis planning and supporting French expertise in crisis theatres.
- The Situation Department constantly monitors events abroad, analyses threats and risks and plans crisis responses in conjunction with diplomatic posts.
- The Emergency Operations Department coordinates crisis response systems: it manages a crisis unit, maintains a hotline and dispatches field agents.
- The Individual Cases Unit handles activities related to families and the entourage of victims of a violent crime or alarming disappearances abroad.
- The Humanitarian Action Department coordinates the emergency humanitarian response for the French government and liaises with various partners (including NGOs, international organizations and foundations).

In 2014, a fifth unit was added: the Stabilization Department, which handles the rebuilding of government institutions and supports civil society in countries coming out of a crisis. This unit is the reason the centre’s name was updated to the Crisis and Support Centre.

To fulfil its role as emergency responder, the CDCS has its own budget and an administrative and logistics unit that can meet the logistical and financial needs of a last-minute response day or night.

Accueil aéroportuaire

The missions

Outside crisis periods

The Crisis and Support Centre’s efforts go well beyond emergency actions. Outside of crisis periods, the CDCS carries out essential pre- and post-crisis work.

The Crisis Centre’s forward-looking approach helps to foresee and manage the most likely crises. Risks of a political, health, seismic, weather, industrial or terrorist nature are analysed with support from the geographical directorates at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the embassy and consulate network. It is a long-term undertaking that supports policy decisions and drawing up humanitarian and security strategies. It also helps in planning for the human and material resources that will be necessary if a crisis occurs.

Monitoring is another cornerstone of the CDCS’s action. The Crisis and Support Centre’s teams work day and night to ensure global monitoring and be ready to respond to the urgent needs of French citizens around the world. If necessary, the Monitoring Unit alerts the embassies and consulates as well as the relevant French citizens to take appropriate measures as quickly as possible.

The missions

Provide more professional crisis response

In 2008, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner called for the creation of the Crisis Centre (CDC) for the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. As a doctor by training and a former Minister of State for Humanitarian Action, co-founder of Médecins sans Frontiers and founder of Médecins du Monde, he felt that it was time to scale up.

Foreign Affairs was well versed in responding to crises around the world. At the time, in the event of an emergency, two separate entities were mobilized: the Safety of French Nationals Abroad Department, which handled issues involving French citizens abroad, and the Humanitarian Action Delegation, which assisted local populations. The two departments worked side by side and had shared values, but their methods differed.

Because crises had become increasingly frequent and complex, affecting French citizens and local populations alike, Mr Kouchner saw a need to create a structure within the Ministry dedicated to comprehensive crisis management, whether those crises impacted French citizens or not. The minister drew inspiration from the organization he created in 1988 as then Minister of State for Humanitarian Action and tasked Patrick Lachaussée, Head of the Safety of French Nationals Abroad Department, with developing the future Crisis Centre. He was asked to study outstanding foreign models and bring together all the components of an excellent crisis centre. The team responsible for creating the CDC was formed and included diplomats and experts in humanitarian issues, healthcare, psychological support, interministerial coordination, logistics, accounting and finance.