Secretary-General Kofi Annan today paid tribute to outgoing United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, praising his tireless efforts to bring help and hope to those on the front line of tragedy, be they victims of natural disaster or casualties of man-made conflict.
“Over the past three and a half years, Jan Egeland has led our joint efforts to provide desperately needed relief in the wake of a number of disasters – including the devastating earthquake in Bam (Iran), the Indian Ocean earthquakes and tsunami, the South Asia earthquake, the drought in West Africa the drought and flooding in the Horn of Africa, and the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season,” Mr. Annan said in a statement.
“Jan has coordinated our humanitarian efforts in neglected and forgotten crises from northern Uganda to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he added of Mr. Egeland, who is stepping steps down just two weeks before Mr. Annan himself ends his tenure on 31 December.
“He has travelled to the frontlines of conflicts to bear witness to the suffering of civilian populations in Darfur (Sudan), Colombia, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and brought the world’s attention to the suffering there.”
Mr. Annan noted that Mr. Egeland led the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the wider humanitarian community through the most significant reform process since the establishment of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in 1991.
“Thanks largely to his tireless advocacy, the humanitarian reforms which I proposed in my report, In Larger Freedom, have been put in place,” he said, citing the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a $500-million fund set up to jump-start relief operations and save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to delay under the previous under-funded mechanism.
Mr. Egeland, former head of the Norwegian Red Cross and co-initiator and organizer of the Norwegian Channel between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization which paved the way for the 1993 peace accords between them, was appointed to his latest UN post in June 2003.
He also directed the Norwegian facilitation of the UN-led peace talks leading up to ceasefire agreement between the Government of Guatemala and the guerrillas, which was signed in Oslo in 1996. He led the host delegation when the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines was successfully negotiated and adopted in Oslo in 1997. Before becoming head of the Norwegian Red Cross, Mr. Egeland was Mr. Annan’s special adviser on Colombian civil strife.
“His leadership will be sorely missed,” Mr. Annan concluded in his message. “But I also know his voice will always be heard, speaking up on behalf of those who need it most.”