U.N. Humanitarian Director Jan Egeland Leaves Post Jan Egeland, head of the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, discusses the crisis in Darfur. Egeland, who's leaving his post today, also shares his assessment with Steve Inskeep of how the international community responded to crises during his tenure.
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U.N. Humanitarian Director Jan Egeland Leaves Post

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U.N. Humanitarian Director Jan Egeland Leaves Post

U.N. Humanitarian Director Jan Egeland Leaves Post

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Next we'll meet a man who is leaving an uphill job. Jan Egeland is the coordinator for humanitarian efforts at the United Nations. That means he brings help to disasters, natural and man-made - from Pakistan's earthquake to genocide in Sudan. And today is his last day on that job. Jan Egeland had notable successes. In 2004 he urged the world to give more to the Indian Ocean tsunami victims, and the world did. He's been less successful stopping genocide in Darfur.


That's where Sudan's government is accused of letting militias attack the local population. The killing has not stopped, even though the world has given money.

Mr. JAN EGELAND (United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Efforts): The problem in Darfur is not the lack of humanitarian workers on the ground - we are between 13 and 14,000 combined; we have received a billion dollars this year - much of that from the United States - the problem is that we are not living up to our responsibility to protect as an international community.

INSKEEP: Do you get frustrated with all the diplomatic debates over the precise nature of peacekeepers in Darfur, while the situation goes on and on?

MR. EGELAND: It is horrendous to see how grown men can waste time to discuss, you know, how many U.N. staff should there be, as opposed to African Union staff, while women and children die every day in the field.

INSKEEP: And when were you last in Darfur?

MR. EGELAND: I've been there now four times. I've been blocked several times also from going there. And the last time was only, I think, three weeks ago. I was in West Darfur in El Geneina.

INSKEEP: What were you looking for on that trip a few weeks ago?

MR. EGELAND: To try to see how our humanitarian operation could survive the next weeks and months, while we are still hoping for a U.N.-led security force that could come there, defend the civilian population, and protect the humanitarian lifeline. They again interfered with my program. They blocked me going to four out of the six sites that I was going to visit. I wanted to go and see rebels. I wanted to go to see the Janjaweed leaders…

INSKEEP: These are the people who are blamed for the actual killing - you wanted to go talk to them.

MR. EGELAND: I wanted to go speak to everybody who can influence the situation. And they blocked me, because in part, I don't think they wanted me to see that there are too many on the government side who are now trying to win this through military action again. And there is no military solution to what's happened in Darfur - only negotiated settlement with the ethnic groups, with the rebel groups.

INSKEEP: What did you see in the two places you were allowed to go?

MR. EGELAND: Well, I saw in El Geneina was simply terrible. I was allowed -because we just, I think, went there - to go to the local hospital where I saw children with their bullet wounds from a place called Serba. And Serba is a village that is threatened. And I met a mother who sat with her child at this hospital, and they were, you know, a bullet wound through her neck. And there was an armed militiaman who went up and said, I will shoot your child unless you give us money. They had no money so he shot the child. This is, you know, heartbreaking.

MR. EGELAND: And what has happened since is that Serba was attacked again just days ago, and more civilians were killed.

INSKEEP: Mr. Egeland, has it ever crossed your mind the feeling that maybe you've been doing a pointless job?

MR. EGELAND: No. You know, many people feel I live enormously depressed and frustrated. But I just summed up these three and a half years with my staff, and we all agreed that the world is by and large a better place in 2006 than it was in 2003. When I started this job, Liberia was as worse or worse than Darfur, so was eastern Congo, so was northern Uganda. Now, all of these places are much better.

Where we have not succeeded - where we have failed, to put it blunt - is the Darfur, Chad, Central African Republic, which is one region. And also, we have failed to protect the civilians in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in all of these places, it has gotten worse over these three years.

INSKEEP: Well, Jan Egeland, thanks very much for speaking with us.

MR. EGELAND: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Today is Jan Egeland's last day on the job at the U.N.


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