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A Billion Lives by Jan Egeland

A Billion Lives (2008)

by Jan Egeland

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    First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army by Peter Eichstaedt (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Expands on Chapter 9, about Uganda; includes a retelling of Egeland's trip to meet the Lord's Resistance Army from another perspective.

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An outstanding account of some of the work of a UN Official from Norway which begins with the death of Sergio in Iraq and continues with peace making efforts in varous African and Latin American countries. Who would have known what a dangerous job it is simply meeting with a rebel leader. An amazing tale of personal courage. ( )
  carterchristian1 | May 24, 2011 |
Edward Mortimer has chosen to discuss Jan Egeland’s A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject – The UN, saying that: 

“…What comes out of this book, is the terrible dilemmas that often arise, the question of how far do you take account of political constraints? How far are you prepared to go along with people who are really very reprehensible, warlords and the like in order to relieve people’s suffering? And also, when you take a stand on principle, how much you should publicize your views?...”

The full interview is available here: http://five-books.com/interviews/edward-mortimer ( )
  FiveBooks | Mar 16, 2010 |
This is my second biography of a top level United Nations humanitarian official (after Chasing the Flame) and the subject matter makes for surprisingly riveting reading. Unlike the image of a desk-bound UN bureaucrat, some of these guys put their lives on the line, out in the field in remote jungles, working with some of the worlds most recluse and violent groups, and dealing with massive crisis at the center of a global event like the Indian ocean tsunami. If there is a single hero that saves the world, probably the closes the world has is the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, or the UN Emergency Relief Chair (these boring titles don't do the job justice).

Jan Egeland, a Norwegian, worked at the UN from 2003 to 2006 and this is an eyewitness account of the disasters and problems he dealt with during that period. Egeland is probably most familiar to American readers as the man who called the US "stingy" after the 2004 Tsunami when the US pledged only $15 million in aid - the details of this incident are fully revealed in the book but suffice it to say he was mis-characterized by right-wing fanatics. Other conflicts Egeland discusses include: Ivory Coast, Iraq, Columbia, Darfur, Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Uganda. These are very personal accounts and in some cases Egeland is the first person to meet with rebel groups, it's fascinating and revealing how they live and operate. At the same time Egeland does not fully explain the historical context of the conflicts so it can be taxing to read minutia detail - I often found myself wading through areas of specialized knowledge to the more riveting human interest stories.

The title refers to the bottom 1 billion of the world who are often ignored and bear the brunt of problems. Despite the litany of death and disaster, Egeland is optimistic that the world is improving, it is better now than it was 30 years ago and so on back in time. People like Egeland, those who devote their lives to humanitarian work, are really among the worlds heroes.

NOTE: If you have already read Chasing the Flame, this book makes a fantastic coda as Jan Egeland started his job at the UN the very day Sergio was killed, at the Canal Hotel bombing, so he brings much of the recent history of the UN up to the present from where Chasing the Flame left off.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | Aug 19, 2008 |
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A report on the world's most dangerous regions as profiled by a high-ranking United Nations diplomat discusses what is happening in places that have been devastated by civil wars, natural disasters, and other critical challenges.

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