Today is the last day on the job for Jan Egeland, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and the emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations. People might think he is leaving the job enormously depressed and frustrated about corners of the world where suffering continues unabated. But Egeland sees a mixed picture.
He believes that Liberia, eastern Congo and northern Uganda are all better places since he took the job three years ago.
"Where we have not succeeded, where we have failed, to put it blunt[ly], is Darfur, Chad, the Central African Republic, which is one region. And also we have failed to protect the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan," Egeland says.
The problems Egeland faced have not always been manmade. Two years ago, he was confronted with the Indian Ocean tsunami. Egeland drew headlines at the time for accusing Western nations of being stingy when it comes to aiding the world's poor. And he stands by that characterization.
"I famously called rich countries stingy overall," Egeland says. "I don't think [spending on average] 0.2 percent of our riches in Europe, North America, Japan and elsewhere ... on foreign assistance — I don't think this is very generous."
As he leaves office, Egeland is once again calling the international community to task. This time he points to the world's failure to protect the citizens of Darfur.
"It is horrendous to see how grown men can waste time to discuss how many U.N. staff there should be as opposed to African Union staff, while women and children die every day in the field," Egeland says.
There is no word on his successor. His staffers hope the incoming U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, will find someone as passionate as Egeland.