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Jan Egeland

Jan Egeland
UN Humanitarian Official
Born (1957-09-12) 12 September 1957
Stavanger, Norway
Alma mater University of Oslo
University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council
Known for Humanitarian work
Political party Labour party

Jan Egeland (born 12 September 1957) is a Norwegian politician, formerly of the Labour party. He has been the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council since August 2013. He was previously the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch and the Director of Human Rights Watch Europe. Egeland formerly served as director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Under-Secretary-General of the UN. Egeland also holds a post as Professor II at the University of Stavanger.

Egeland was the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from June 2003 to December 2006. Egeland was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and succeeded Kenzo Oshima. He traveled extensively, drawing attention to humanitarian emergencies.

Egeland was also Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross. He served as State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1990–1997) and was Chair of Amnesty International Norway.


  • Biography 1
  • Tsunami relief 2
  • Lebanese aid 3
  • Gaza violence 4
  • Criticism 5
  • Ylvis song 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Egeland holds a (PhD) in Political Science from the University of Oslo. He has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and a fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace,[1] Jerusalem.[2]

Egeland assumed his post as the Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) in August 2003. This position is the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He was preceded in the post by Kenzo Oshima of Japan.

Prior to becoming the head of OCHA, Egeland was the Amnesty International in Norway, and Vice-Chair of the International Executive Committee of Amnesty International, which he was elected on to at the age of 23, the youngest ever to hold the position. He served as Director for the International Department of the Norwegian Red Cross, Head of Development Studies at the Henry Dunant Institute in Geneva and a radio and television international news reporter for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

Egeland has actively participated in a number of peace processes. He co-initiated and co-organized the Norwegian channel between Oslo Accord (Declaration of Principles) of September 1993. He directed the Norwegian facilitation of the United Nations-led peace talks leading up to ceasefire agreement between the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) guerrillas signed in Oslo in 1996. He also led the host delegation when the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines was successfully negotiated and adopted in Oslo in 1997.

Egeland has focused his efforts in alleviating the needs of this sector of the population in complex emergency situations like the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda, the Darfur region in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions of displaced persons are affected. He has also campaigned for addressing the needs of those affected by natural disasters, like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, as well as raising awareness in issues such as gender mainstreaming, sexual exploitation and violence, and internal displacement.

In a United Kingdom Channel 4 interview Egeland laid the blame on the crisis in Lebanon on Hezbollah who he said "Hide amongst the civilian population and which gives the Israeli air force no choice but to attack civilian structures,"[3] though he also has referred to the Israeli strikes as "a violation of humanitarian law".[4]

On 28 July 2006 he proposed a 72-hour cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah in order for emergency relief to move the wounded and get food and medical supplies into the war zone. Israel rejected the proposal, claiming that the humanitarian corridor it opened to and from Lebanon was sufficient for the purpose. Egeland responded that "Hizbollah is not necessarily the biggest obstacle to an agreement".[5] Israel later agreed to a 48-hour halt of bombing, while reserving the right to take action against targets preparing attacks.[6]

He is married to former Norwegian Minister of International Development Anne Kristin Sydnes, and has two daughters. In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the 100 "people who shape our world".[7]

In 2008 Egeland published a memoir A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity about his time at the UN from 2003-2006.

In March 2008, Egeland gave a lecture entitled "War, Peace and Climate Change: A Billion Lives in the Balance" at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.

Tsunami relief

On 27 December 2004, during the initial phase of the

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Kenzo Oshima (Japan)
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Succeeded by
John Holmes (United Kingdom)
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Sven Mollekleiv
Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross
Succeeded by
Jonas Gahr Støre
Government offices
Preceded by
Sverre Lodgaard
Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Secretary-General Appoints Jan Egeland of Norway New Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN press release in 2003
  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  • The white saviors and the white trucks
  • Egeland accused of bluffing about starvation
  • Lecture transcript and video of Egeland's speech at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego, March 2008

External links

  1. ^ "The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace". 
  2. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Jan Egeland Of Norway New Under-Secretary-General For Humanitarian Affairs". Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  3. ^ "UN official accuses Hezbollah of 'cowardly blending' among civilians Israel News". Haaretz. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  4. ^ "Israel bombing breaks humanitarian law - UN official". February 9, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Israel avviser våpenhvile - Aftenposten". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "TIME". TIME. 2006-04-25. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  8. ^ "Are We Stingy? Yes".  
  9. ^ a b Jan Egeland (2008). A Billion Lives. ISBN 978-1-4165-6096-8 - see Chapter 5 for a lengthy discussion of this incident.
  10. ^ "Jan Egeland - The 2006 TIME 100".  
  11. ^ "Stop 'cowardly blending' among civilians: Egeland to Hezbollah". Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  12. ^ "'"BBC: Gaza offensive 'disproportionate. BBC News. July 25, 2006. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  13. ^ "De hvite hjelperne i de hvite bilene - Aftenposten". Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  14. ^ Garvi, Esther (March 3, 2008). "The media has awakened". Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Ylvis - Jan Egeland [Official music video HD]". YouTube. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  16. ^ Kelemen, Michele (2012-10-07). "The U.N.'s 'Superhero Man': A Rocking Tribute To A Humanitarian : The Two-Way". NPR. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 


In 2012, the Norwegian group Ylvis produced a parody/tribute rock song about Jan Egeland, hailing him as "the United Nations superhero man" and "a peacekeeping machine."[15] Egeland's response, in an e-mail to NPR, was "I think it is hilarious with its crazy text and great tune."[16] As of 7 April 2015, the video has been viewed more than 12 million times, largely due to Ylvis' internet sensation "The Fox".

Ylvis song

In March 2008, TV2 aired another documentary entitled Sultbløffen (The famine scam) about the 2005–06 Niger food crisis. Then-UN relief coordinator Egeland and several others were accused of bluffing and of blowing the situation out of proportion.[14]

In 2007, the Norwegian TV channel TV2 aired a documentary entitled De hvite hjelperne (The white helpers) with footage and research from Malawi concerning the Norwegian Red Cross's donation of hundreds of Norwegian army surplus M621 trucks. The documentary highlighted the trucks' primitive construction and poor condition, and general uselessness to the Malawi community. Although Egeland and the Red Cross declared this operation a success, the trucks were little more than scrap metal.[13]

Egeland has been criticized for the way he handles relief programs.


During a visit to Gaza to survey the damage, Egeland was quoted as saying that the bombing of a power plant would affect schools and hospitals more than the militants. "This is very clear, a disproportionate use [of power]," Egeland told reporters. "Civilian infrastructure is protected. The law is very clear. You cannot have any interpretation in any other way."[12]

Gaza violence

Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children. I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men. We need a cessation of hostilities because this is a war where civilians are paying the price.[11]

Egeland, though critical of Israel, lashed out against Hezbollah in terms that no UN official had dared yet, saying:

In July 2006, Egeland launched a US$150m aid appeal for Lebanon, following the destruction of parts of Lebanon by Israeli forces and subsequent displacement of many thousands of refugees.

Lebanese aid

[10] magazine would later call Egeland "the world's conscience."Time However the "stingy" quote did in fact help increase the number of donations. Egeland was later quoted as saying that the donations were so large and were coming in so fast that "We really have to confirm that we heard right, that the number of zeroes was right." When reviewing the tangible, if non-monetary, assistance of the militaries of the United States, Australia, and other nations in providing disaster relief, Egeland remarked, "Those helicopters are worth their weight in gold now." [9]

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