Photo: Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva/Hedda Gudim

Jan Egeland

On 6 December 2017, General Secretary of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Jan Egeland, paid a visit to the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva, and shared observations and reflections on challenges on the world’s many humanitarian crises.

Mr. Egeland has an extraordinary resume, with a range of leading roles in the fields of human rights, conflict negotiation and humanitarian response, including spearheading reform of the humanitarian system as Emergency Relief Coordinator (USG/ERC). He remains a key figure in the global humanitarian landscape and has been leading NRC, Norway’s largest humanitarian NGO, since 2013. The organisation comprises several thousand staff members, is present in more than 30 countries, and often one of few NGOs with access to the most hard-to-reach areas.

In sharing his current world outlook, Mr. Egeland underlined the exponential growth in humanitarian crises the recent years and the unprecedented surge in refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), owing in particular to the Syria crisis. Currently 65,5 million persons are forcibly displaced worldwide, of which more than 25 million have refugee status, and 40 million are IDPs. The magnitude and duration of crises have caused a large gap between needs and funding, requiring aid organizations “to do more with less resources available”. The challenge lies in finding and securing often-elusive durable solutions, such as relocation/resettlement, voluntary return or local integration.

“We can keep people alive, but we cannot always protect them. A girl might not need another woollen blanket, rather, she needs the bombing to stop,” as Egeland put it. While NRC and other humanitarian NGOs may temporarily fill the void left by the lack of political solutions, the organisations depend on the success of politics to provide an end to conflict.

Despite the many challenges, it is not all gloomy. Egeland highlighted a few recent achievements, such as humanitarian innovation and the beneficial use of new technology for displaced persons, as well as successfully averting famine in some countries thanks to concerted international efforts. Hopefully 2018 will bring more good news!


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