Synopses & Reviews
Called "the world's conscience" and one of the 100 most influential people of our time by Time
magazine, Jan Egeland has been the public face of the United Nations. As Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, he was in charge of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for three and a half years.
One of the bravest and most adventuresome figures on the international scene, Egeland takes us to the frontlines of war and chaos in Iraq, to scenes of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, to the ground zeroes of famine, earthquakes, and tsunamis. He challenges the first world to act. A Billion Lives is his on-the-ground account of his work in the most dangerous places in the world, where he has led relief efforts, negotiated truces with warlords, and intervened in what many had thought to be hopeless situations.
As one of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's closest advisers, Jan Egeland was at the heart of crises during a difficult period in UN history, when the organization was plagued by the divisive aftermath of the Iraq war, the Oil-for-Food scandal, and terror attacks against UN workers. On the day Egeland came to New York to take up his job, the UN building in Baghdad was destroyed by a huge bomb, killing one of his predecessors, Sergio de Mello. Two months later Annan sent Egeland to Iraq to judge whether the UN could keep a presence there.
Since that first mission to Baghdad, Egeland has been envoy to such places as Darfur, Eastern Congo, Lebanon, Gaza, Northern Israel, Northern Uganda, and Colombia. He coordinated the massive international relief efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami and South Asian earthquake. As a negotiator and activist, Egeland is famous for direct language, whether he's addressing warlords, guerrilla leaders, generals, or heads of state.
A Billion Lives is his passionate, adventure-filled eyewitness account of the catastrophes the world faces. And so Egeland writes that he has met the best and worst among us, has "confronted warlords, mass murderers, and tyrants, but [has] met many more peacemakers, relief workers, and human rights activists who risk their lives at humanity's first line of defense."
In spite of the desperate need of so many, Egeland is convinced that, "For the vast majority of people, the world is getting better, that there is more peace, more people fed and educated, and fewer forced to become refugees than a generation ago. So there is reason for optimism," he concludes in this groundbreaking book that does not flinch but holds out reasons for hope.
"In this gripping account, global diplomat Jan Egeland speaks to us about our generation's 'power to end massive misery and prevent conflict and disasters.' With his brave leadership and unique experience, Egeland takes us to the front lines. He speaks truth to power, musters the best of the international system, and also bears witness to the worst of the world's inhumanity. He draws wise and bold lessons from these global hotspots as to how we can organize a safer and more prosperous world for all."-- Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals
"A veteran peacemaker who has walked both conflict zones and international corridors of power, Jan Egeland is one of the most competent and inspired voices calling for truth and justice in the world today. At once visionary and highly enlightening, Egeland writes from a perspective deeply rooted in decades of personal experience. He reminds us of the magnitude of the crushing needs of our world and the unprecedented opportunities facing the global community in the twenty-first century. Egeland has written a moving testament of human pain and, yet, persistent hope."-- Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and president of Sojourners
Like its author, A Billion Lives is honest, pragmatic, and optimistic. Egeland believes that we have the capacity to end massive global suffering; we only lack the will. Experiencing the journey of one of the worlds most outstanding advocates for the poor can only advance this goal.Dean R. Hirsch, president and chief executive officer of World Vision International
About the Author
Jan Egeland is Director General of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. He was the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and its emergency relief coordinator from August 2003 to December 2006. From 1999 to 2002, he was the UN secretary-generals special envoy for war-torn Colombia. As state secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs he was initiator of the Norwegian channel between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that led to the Oslo Accord in 1993. Egeland lives in Oslo, Norway, and is frequently in the United States.