The Humanitarian Congress Berlin (HCB) was founded in 1997 by the Berlin Chamber of Physicians to educate medical doctors in Germany about humanitarian work and raise interest in working abroad after the tragedies of Rwanda and Srebrenica. Over the years, the annual conference has evolved to become a public platform for discussing a variety of issues related to humanitarian action and health.
After the Berlin Chamber of Physicians decided not to organize the congress any longer, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) spearheaded a relaunch of the event in 2002, jointly with the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Later, the German Red Cross (GRC) and Médecins Du Monde (MdM) joined the group of organizers. Since the relaunch, the congress coordination has been hosted by MSF, and in recent years, the congress has cooperated with Oxfam Germany and Greenpeace.
The congress has undergone significant changes over the years, including changes in partner organizations, formats, and content. In the beginning, the congress was very Berlin-focused and took place exclusively on site, making it less inclusive and international. However, in response to the global Covid-19 outbreak and the need for critical debate and a platform to openly discuss pressing humanitarian issues, the congress moved to virtual formats in 2020 and 2021. These experiences have shown that the virtual format allows for greater inclusivity and accessibility, although it has also resulted in a lack of in-person exchange and networking between people with different backgrounds and levels of experience.
To address this, we decided to combine virtual and live formats in 2022 for the first time, organizing additional on-site events in Berlin. In 2023, we plan to experiment with hybrid formats to reinforce the on-site element while maintaining the benefits of virtual participation.
The Humanitarian Congress Berlin has also expanded its focus beyond medical issues to include political and humanitarian perspectives on health and crises. The timeline below shows the different themes that have been discussed during past congresses. Overall, the HCB continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs and challenges of the humanitarian action and health sectors.