A portrait of Bernard Boëton; a 35 year-long career working with Terre des hommes
The encounter with Terre des hommes
A French citizen, Bernard Boëton went to do his civil service in Cameroon in 1972, teaching at a provincial school in the heart of the equatorial forest. There, for the first time, he saw the work done by the NGOs in the field. Back in France in 1979, he noticed a job offer published in Le Monde newspaper. A position as delegate in Bangladesh was available from a Swiss NGO by the name of Terre des hommes. He decided to send in his application, without really knowing what might await him.
A multi-functional figure
Bernard was hired on 1st April, 1980, after two interviews – one with Edmond Kaiser, the founder of Terre des hommes. He then worked for three years as the Head of Programmes in Bangladesh, quite long enough to become aware of the misery endured by the Bengalis (malnutrition, exploitation, natural disasters, etc.).
Once back at the Foundation’s Head Office, from 1983 to 1985 he held the job of itinerant delegate: “That’s someone who lives in his suitcase and goes wherever he’s needed, whenever he’s needed, for any reason whatsoever”, he explains. His mandates are extremely varied, and can extend from 15 days to 7 months. During this period, Bernard opened programmes mainly in Africa, in particular in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Togo, in Mauritania and in Chad.
He subsequently became the Head of Programmes for Sub-Saharan Africa, then, in 1986, took over the function of Manager for Fundraising and Communications, at the request of the Tdh Board. After having held that position for ten years, he asked to leave his management job to be able to “get back to the roots”. He set up the Sector for Child Rights within the Foundation; this is principally composed of three programmes: juvenile justice, the fight against child trafficking and the child protection policy. Bernard held the position of Resource Person until 2013, after which he devoted himself to organizing the World Congress on Juvenile Justice where representatives of the States and civil society will come together to advance the enforcement of international standards and the rights of the child in juvenile justice.
Bernard Boëton has contributed to what Terre des hommes has become: a recognised interlocutor with the Ministries of Justice in many different countries. Because, for this impassioned philosopher, “Ideas divide people, but actions bring them together”. The need to go on to action has always guided Bernard in his fight to establish restorative juvenile justice in particular. His experience as a teacher led him to teach Child Rights at the Teacher Training College in Vaud for ten years, and for the past 14 years at the Institute for Human Rights in Lyons.
On August 31st, 2015, Bernard will retire from the Foundation. He will be remembered as a man of conviction and integrity, committed to the rights of the child, and who has undoubtedly contributed greatly to building Terre des hommes.