From Publishers Weekly
Traveling the globe as the U.N.'s under–secretary general for humanitarian affairs and its emergency relief coordinator from 2003 to 2006, Norwegian diplomat Egeland has seen the best and worst of what humanity has to offer; in this emotionally and politically charged tome, he bluntly summarizes his findings. From crises as varied as genocide in Darfur, the 2004 East Asian tsunami and the religious fanaticism keeping Israel and Palestine in conflict, Egeland is concerned about innocent lives forever altered in these situations, and actively—and unabashedly—bemoans the lack of financial aid from larger nations. Tracing his passion for social justice to age 17, when he spent a summer volunteering for Colombia's El Minuto de Dios
, the special envoy, now a married father of two daughters, has been around enough presidents, dictators and NGOs to insightfully share his outlook on the conditions of the world, share fascinating details of conversations usually held behind closed doors, yet also concede mistakes made by both himself and the U.N. Though Egeland's clipped and often clichéd prose can distract from the point he is trying to emphasize, he is a strong storyteller and an essential and candid eyewitness to the last three decades' tragedies. (Mar.)
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It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of a billion lives could, indeed, rest in the hands of one person, especially when that individual was the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. Yet even with all the resources available to him, Egeland reveals that exercising such power in the face of tsunamis and earthquakes, genocide and civil war, was frustratingly futile when it also had to counteract resistance from both the loftiest government officials as well as the lowliest guerilla warriors. Through tantalizing insider accounts of fragile negotiations and impassioned personal declarations of outrage and disappointment, Egeland evokes the immediacy and intricacy inherent in the massive international efforts undertaken to provide essential comfort to victims of the world’s most devastating manmade and natural disasters. From Beirut to Baghdad, Bogota to Banda Aceh, Egeland’s engrossing and provocative account revisits notorious global hot spots, chronicles the strengths and weaknesses of multinational diplomacy, and offers candid assessments for the future of humanitarian crisis management. --Carol Haggas