Personality of the Week: Jan Egeland

United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator in Asia an example of what the Organization can achieve when it is respected and not derided

Jan Egeland, the Norwegian who is coordinating the United Nations Organization's humanitarian aid programmes in Asia, is the figurehead leading the teams of thousands of aid workers and volunteers, channeling aid to where it is most needed.  His commitment and organizational skills have been so effective that the much-feared second tsunami, or wave of disease, expected to double the number of dead in the aftermath of the tidal wave of 26th December, has not appeared.

Instead, the directors of the UN agencies in the field have declared that mopping up work has been completed in many areas and that life has returned to normal (apart from the psychological scars which many will carry with them to their graves), although this does not hide the utter devastation in vast areas of Sumatra, where a state of emergency continues and where half a million people have been displaced.

Jan Egeland referred recently to the effects of the UNO's work in the field, setting up centres for medical treatment, food distribution, training, organizing the rapid back-to-school programme and organizing the teams to begin repair and rebuilding work on the smashed infrastructures.

Jan Egeland considers that "Now the really hard work starts and that is to provide a life for the people and not only feed them and prevent disease," as he works against the clock while at the same time trying to reason with the Indonesian government which declared all foreign military personnel must leave the country by 26th March. Jan Egeland is the visible face of the UNO at its best, providing aid where it is needed, forging a link between desperate situations in the present and a better life in the future.

If all the members of the international community were always to respect this organization, instead of calling it spineless, while at the same time refusing to honour the Charter they signed, the UNO would have the authority and muscle it needs to manage crises effectively, not only on occasions of natural disasters but also to solve political crises, such as in the case of Iraq, where the only crime of the UNMOVIC inspection teams was to tell the truth, that they had found no WMD.

"Spineless", "useless", "a league of nations" were the terms of abuse hurled at the ONU by a Washington desperate to send its troops over the border. Now we know why the UNO did not find any weapons - because there weren't any to find.

Jan Egeland has been Under-Secretary-General For Humanitarian Affairs and Humanitarian Relief Coordinator (OCHA) of the UNO since September 2003. He has worked for 25 years in humanitarian and peace organizations in the Norwegian government, the Red Cross, Red Crescent, NGOs and the ONU.

Master of Political Science from the University of oslo, Jan Egeland was a Fulbright Scholar at the prestigious Berkeley University, California and a Fellow at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, and the Truman Institute for the Advancement for Peace, Jerusalem. He was Chairperson of Amnesty International, Norway and Vice Chairperson of the International Executive Committee of Amnesty International.

Jan Egeland worked as Director of Development Studies at the Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva and as a radio and TV reporter for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, becoming Secretary-General of the Norwegian Red Cross.

Between 1990 and 1997, he was the Secretary of State at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during which time he set up two Norwegian Emergency Preparedness Systems, sending over 2000 humanitarian aid workers to international organizations. In 1992, he was part of a group which began and organized the Norwegian Channel for peace in the Middle East, which resulted in the Oslo Accord between Israel and the PLO in September 1993. Jan Egeland led the Norwegian delegation which facilitated the peace talks in Guatemala between the government and the URNG guerrillas, which led to the signing of the peace agreement in 1996. In 1997, he directed the Norwegian delegation at the singing and implementation of the Ottawa Treaty on Land Mines, in Oslo.

From 1999 to 2002, he was the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Colombia.

Jan Egeland, an example of commitment to the humanitarian cause and a brilliant demonstration of the human wealth which makes up the United Nations Organization. Even so, there are still those who deride the UNO and work against it

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Author`s name Olga Savka