Arthur C. Helton Memorial Lecture: Holding World Leaders Accountable to Reducing Global Poverty and Protecting Civilians

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

GILLIAN SORENSEN:  Well, good evening everyone.  I'm Gillian Sorensen, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening at the council.  I do want to start by the usual request to please turn off your cell phones, Blackberries, beepers or any other noisy instruments, and also to take note that this program is on the record. 

I'm very honored to have the privilege of presiding at the Arthur C. Helton Memorial Lecture.  As all of you know, Arthur Helton was a lawyer and a champion of human rights.  He dedicated his life to working with refugees and easing their plight.  He was here at the council as director of the Peace and Conflict Studies and was a senior fellow.  Arthur had been a teacher -- a lawyer by training and a teacher of law at both Columbia and New York University.  He was an author.  He testified in Congress.  He wrote many, many books and articles about these issues, and alas, on August 19 he was in Baghdad conferring with our senior U.N. representative Sergio de Mello when a terrible bombing happened, and Arthur was lost in the cause and in the line of duty.  We miss him and we remember him still, and I like to think that he would be glad that we tried to carry on his work and that we have convened tonight to talk about humanitarian affairs and refugee issues, and keep his spirit here and alive.  I'm especially happy that Jacqueline Gilbert, his wife, and family and other friends of Arthur's are here with us. 

I cannot imagine a better speaker for this occasion in memory of Arthur than Jan Egeland, who is a legend at the United Nations.  He was referred to by Time Magazine once as the world's conscience, and he has indeed been that.  He was former undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.  He is now the new secretary general's special advisor with a broad portfolio to prevent conflict and resolve issues, and he is already on his way next week to Bolivia in this new assignment.  He's part of a standby team that can be called on short notice, although his actual full time job is as the new director of the Norwegian Institute on Foreign Affairs.  How he will do both I'm not quite sure. 

Jan Egeland has devoted his life to these matters.  He was a student of political science at University of Norway.  He was a Fulbright scholar at Berkeley.  He was chair of Amnesty in Norway and secretary-general of the Red Cross in Norway, and as deputy foreign minister he was a key player in negotiating the Oslo Accords in 1993.  He was a special envoy to Columbia.  He later led the Norwegian delegation when the treaty to ban land mines was signed in Oslo in 1997. 

The key issue about Jan is that he has been on the front lines more than anybody I know.  When the tsunami hit in Asia, when the earthquake fell in Pakistan, when floods devastated Guyana, he was there.  At desperate scenes of conflict and violence and devastation and despair, Jan has been the one to coordinate the response.  In Sudan, Somalia, and Chad, in Congo, in the Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, in Guatemala, and in Columbia and other countries too numerous to name, he has led the United Nations' efforts and assisted hundreds of NGOs to coordinate their work.  Jan has spoken truth to power and his frankness -- his bluntness has ruffled some feathers but for my part, it has earned my admiration for his eloquence and his courage and his honesty.  His title tonight is "Holding World Leaders Accountable to Reducing Poverty and Protecting Civilians."

Jan Egeland.

JAN EGELAND:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much, Gillian.  I'm humbled and honored to hold this lecture in the name of Arthur C. Helton, who -- I know his work well and I have -- I feel very emotional about the 19th of August, 2003, because it was the day I landed on Newark Airport to take up my new job as emergency relief coordinator and deputy secretary general for humanitarian affairs, and on CNN there were breaking news at that moment of the bomb in Baghdad, and before I have left the airport it was confirmed that Sergio de Mello, my friend, and predecessor was dead, and of course, Arthur was in his office.  I was then sent on my first mission to Baghdad in October after the second bomb attack at our headquarters there to see whether we could at all cling on by our fingernails to run programs there.  The Canal Hotel was worse than anything I would have imagined.  The whole walls were down.  The floors were -- it was horrendous.  A portion of my office was particularly affected.  Saying this not only because we should always remember this, but because it's also in a way a watershed for much of our work.  And as humanitarians -- as U.N. people we have always been in the crossfire.  We've learned to live with risk, but it was a very different situation when a well-organized terrorist group would be planning for months to kill U.S. unarmed humanitarian civilian workers, and we're still grappling with how to deal with that because it's fundamentally different from about just being in a conflict situation.

Tonight, I was going to have a conversatorio, as they say in Spanish, with you, Gillian, and with the friends here, many of who have worked a lot on these issues.  And what we decided was to say in the titles -- anyway, say now is the time to hold ourselves accountable, not only the leaders -- (inaudible) -- to take a quantum leap forward.  Many believe I'm an institutional pessimist -- a person going from disaster to disaster and really castigating the world for everything being wrong.  I'm quite a bit of an optimist. 

When I left last December, there were many more places in process of peace, rebuilding, reconstruction than places like Darfur, Iraq, Palestinian areas, Zimbabwe that was on the way down.  There are -- there is 50 percent less war now than in 1989.  In the last few months, for the first time it was recorded that there is less than 1 billion people in the world living under this terrible $1 a day threshold.  It was 2 billion, you know, not so many years ago.  There is progress.  The Human Security Report says that they as researchers found 10 genocides in 1989 and one last year; they defined Darfur as a genocide.  In the last few years, there's been an average between three to five military coups.  In the 60's, 70's and 80's there were between 10 and 25 military coups per year in the world.  So we're making progress. 

On the humanitarian side, tsunami was in a way the sign of which capacity we have now.  Well, there were 90 nations being -- that -- who became donors.  Fifty-five nations could deploy military and civil defense assets -- some, you know, from one part of the world to the other.  Four hundred and thirty international aid groups deployed -- too many -- there were too many doing that but it just shows the capacity we have as such.  And so -- and my impression of late has been the following.  This generation that now go into work in the U.N. and in government service and so on have the chance to take this, you know, much further than we've been able now incrementally to improve so far.  Why?  Because we have resources like never before.  The world economy is going forward with enormous leaps.  Even countries who were poor before have a tremendous growth.  As I said, tsunami showed that there was not the familiar one dozen donors that we've had for the last 25 years.  Suddenly, there was 90.  I mean, of those, 40 were the serious donors.  We have tools like never before.  On the humanitarian side, the office that I led could put people anywhere in the world within 12 hours, with standby planes, standby with governments, with networks of experts all over the world being able to go anywhere in the world to set up operations. 

Now, the question is, of course, with all of this why is still 2 billion people under $2 per day, which is -- it's -- you can only survive on $2 a day.  It's going in the right direction but it's going too slow in the right direction.  How come that hundreds of thousands of women are still raped in the most horrendous way in contemporary wars?  How come we do not protect civilians better?  And how come aid did not increase from 2005 to 2006, even though the G8 countries in Gleneagles in 2005 said they would more than double aid to Africa, and there would be $50 billion additional money by 2010 and onwards?  And here comes in a way the accountability thing -- we have to keep people to what they promise, and we have been too.  I -- there are many things we can keep people to, but let me just mention two before we have discussion and questions. 

Number one -- nearly all governments have now pledged to go to 0.7 in terms of foreign assistance.  I agree with everybody who says it's as important with high quality in the assistance as quantity.  But the point is that with the average of 0.2, which is the stingy average now in my view -- keeping 99.8 percent to yourself as a rich nation on average -- the 0.2 percent is not enough.  It can be amply proven it's not enough for Africa south of Sahara, for example, where there is no progress because they're not part of the international globalized economy, which is making progress.  So if they solemnly swore in Gleneagles to put in $50 billion or more, and they're putting zero dollar more as a collective, something should happen, in my view. 

Secondly, protection of civilians is now a test case -- a litmus case for the world, in my view.  Many, many fewer wars as I mentioned, but civilians are treated as bad in the wars of today as they were on average in the Middle Ages.  On this we're not making progress.  We're making -- we did think that we took the quantum leap in 2005 when in New York City world leaders solemnly swore again -- President Bush, the Chinese premier, all of Europeans, all of the Africans, all of Latin America -- 150 heads of state were in New York and they solemnly swore to uphold their responsibility to protect -- responsibility to protect.  I just looked up actually today again what they said.  They said, "The international community through the United Nations also has the responsibility to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  In this context, we are prepared to take collective action in a timely and decisive manner though the Security Council in accordance with the charter including Chapter 7", which is -- authorizes the use of force if peaceful means will be inadequate and the national authorities are manifestly failing to protect the population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  This is also not happening.  I see a big campaign starting now to get member states of the Security Council -- member states of the U.N. in general -- to live up to this responsibility to protect. 

And my final point is that then I think both North America and United States and in Europe we have to discuss a little less, you know, what should President Bush do, which is, you know, if you're in New York that's what you discuss.  If you're in Oslo that's what you discuss.  If you're in Brussels that's what you discuss -- what should President Bush do.  We have to discuss what should China do, what should India do, what should the new superpowers do, because in Africa they are the most active today.  They're investing much more than the United States, for example -- even more than the European Union and most countries in Africa.  And one of the mistakes we did on Darfur was that we didn't do -- I did that mistake -- only in the last year, I phoned up a lot of Chinese media and said please interview me on Darfur because China is more important than any of those who are helping us now from the West, and my question is you're investing all of this money, you have all of these close links, what is your plan to end the endless loss of life in Darfur?  These are just some remarks.  Let's discuss.

SORENSEN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Let's stay another minute on the responsibility to protect.  That's a very serious commitment.  It was signed -- it's a legal obligation and a moral obligation.  And when we talk about that Africa has to come to mind because it has more than its share of crises, but especially Darfur.  What will -- what does it take to rouse the Security Council to action?  We've had talk, we've had rhetoric, we've had laments and raised fingers but we don't see it.  We don't see it move out.


SORENSEN:  Where is that peacekeeping operation? 

EGELAND:  I think in -- the only thing that really makes the Security Council react is if there's massive pressure from wide movements and heavy NGOs -- our friends in the NGOs have played vital role.  So does the like-minded countries that often work with the NGOs and others and the world media.  Darfur could have been very different if we had been able to raise it earlier when there was still time in 2003, 2004.  And we -- (inaudible) -- we were too late and we were not able to bring in Arab countries -- Asian countries who have a very crucial role there.  The only way is -- the only two we have is the power to embarrass countries into acting.  In 2006, China for the first time started to put pressure on Khartoum.  For the first time ever they spoke about this and they did that repeatedly and they did in (Addis ?) when Kofi Annan chaired the meeting, for example, and brought them in.  But at that point in was late and much more difficult to roll back a tremendous war than it is to stop it when it is a brewing conflict. 

SORENSEN:  Staying still in the African continent, there is some good news.  Congo, which was the longest running war, is showing signs of improvement.  Is that correct?

EGELAND:  Absolutely.

SORENSEN:  Also Liberia, Sierra Leone, Northern Uganda, Angola, possibly Rwanda.  So there is some hope and some improvement.  Can you reflect a bit on what are the elements for success?  Is it timing?  Is it exhausting?  Is it leadership?  Is it pressure -- economic, military or otherwise?  When it succeeds or changes, what makes that happen?

EGELAND:  Number one, there has to be a multilateral effort.  I think Iraq really shows us -- in a way it shows that multilateralism was impotent and failed many way but first and foremost it shows that unilateralism is not working at all.  That's what Iraq has proven.  Congo is still atrocious what's happening.  It's a -- I was there and I spoke to the women who had been raped in the tens of thousands, and hair was raising on my head.  It was just horrendous, and it's still going on.  But it's much, much better than it was when Congo was the greatest loss of life -- is the greatest loss of life of our generation.  Four -- more than 4 million people died in six years, from the end of 1990s and into this decade.  What happened?  Well, the European Union, the United Nations, African partners drove the issue and got a wide alliance, and the United States and China and everybody agreed on a policy, and we went from a small peacekeeping force to a bigger one.  There was enforcement of disarmament, and there was investment and there was pressure on the neighboring countries.  And so I think the criteria really are you have to have a legitimate multilateral operation, you have to have all of the major powers behind it, and you have to have a real U.N. operation, which is multifaceted there.  Same lesson for Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan -- in all of these cases, these were as hopeless cases as anything, and big progress was made. 

SORENSEN:  Let's move to another part of the world -- to Iraq.  In addition to all the other consequences, there is a staggering humanitarian effect -- the flood of refugees.  Actually I was corrected the other day by our ambassador to say they're not refugees -- they're displaced people.  Anyway whatever you call them --

EGELAND:  There is both.

SORENSEN:  There is both.  They're moving over the borders to the neighboring countries and creating a crisis there, too.  What is the responsibility of the U.N. in this case?  And the -- in this country neither the administration nor the opposition seems to have much of a solution.  What's your recommendation there?

EGELAND:  Iraq is a very, very, very difficult case now.  What do you do now?  I mean, it's very clear what -- all of the mistakes that were done, including to go to war.  But what do you do now?  Actually, there is one -- the latest figures that I saw was 1.5 million people have been displaced internally in Iraq and another 1.5 million are refugees and have fled in Jordan, in Syria and the other neighboring countries.  There's a massive brain drain from Iraq because the people are so afraid that they just leave.  Most of them are not registered I think as refugees but hundreds of thousands also registered.  And the -- one thing that I also think is important, just to show the magnitude of the crisis, is the following.  Those doctors who published in The Lancet this report which said that 600,000 -- I think it was 600,000 -- people have died since 2003.  They used the same method as was used in the Darfur survey, which said that 100 and -- where we came up with the figure of 10,000 per month -- over 18 months, 180,000 dead. 

It's interesting that the whole world accepted the Darfur study with the same methodology, and the one on Iraq was thoroughly controversial suddenly.  It's the same technique.  It just shows how many people have died of very many reasons.  What should be done?  Well, you have to bring in the -- again, neighbors have to be brought in.  If they're not brought in, it will just continue.  There has to be a wide consensus of what to do now.  And should the U.S. withdraw or remain or build up?  I don't even know.  It is very, very difficult.  But the U.S. have very actively to invite others in, which was not very active attitude.  For example, when I went to Baghdad in 2003 it was very clear -- U.N. was not invited to a big role.  I think it's a different attitude.

SORENSEN:  In the tsunami and in the earthquake, there was huge losses and the territory was vast.  But you did say that you were there almost within the day.  That's an extraordinary feat of logistical planning of advance preparation.  Does that continue?  Can we count on that?  Is it ready for the next disaster at that level?  And how should the U.S. be helping in that kind of preparation?

EGELAND:  Well, the U.S. was great.  I was very much in the media at the time, including for my famous "stingy" comment where some people thought related to the U.S response to the tsunami was one.  In my view, the U.S. was great in the tsunami.  Some people were very slow and why did the $15 million come after 48 hours and not after 24, and so on.  In general, everybody did the right thing and the one -- and the 50 helicopters from the carrier Abraham Lincoln really bailed us out at the moment when we really needed to go into Aceh.  The problem with all of this is that, you know, it's only apparently available every once in a decade -- that kind of resources really.  We had a hard time in getting enough in the Pakistan one, and even in Darfur I remember calling member state after member state after member state -- the U.S., France, Russia and many others until we had five helicopters to Darfur because we are really dying there -- you know, the people are dying and we are dying trying to -- it's hopeless.  We couldn't get one helicopter as a gift and in the end we scraped -- we got enough together to put it in.  In the tsunami, we got five carriers -- I mean, not helicopter but helicopter carriers in, I think it was five days.  So it just shows it's a little bit too unpredictable, and that's why we built up the emergency fund -- central emergent (sic) fund where we actually have soon will reach the $500 million goal, and now there is money to be able to deploy more predictably, yes, than before.  And we have not -- touch wood -- seen an emergency the last two, three years where there was massive loss of life and no action.  The one big omission we're still doing is the general loss of life through massive poverty really, and issues.

SORENSEN:  Let me pose this one other question and then we'll open it to the audience, although there are many things I'd like to ask about.  But coming closer to home in this hemisphere, we nearly forget -- because it isn't in the news as much -- the longest running war in this hemisphere, and that's in Columbia.  You were there for some time as the special envoy.  That war has gone 40 years and counting.  What have you learned from that and where should we go now?

EGELAND:  I've learned too many things from Columbia.  I was there the first time when I was 19, which is 30 years ago, and I've been there with many hats -- regular intervals since.  Number one, I think it's important that within this hemisphere there is more interest in Columbia.  I think it's great -- the movement that -- (inaudible) -- for Darfur, but it's -- where's all that, you know -- the Spaniards and the Europeans are very interested in Columbia and the America -- the -- and not so interested in Darfur and the Americans are interested in Darfur.  I mean, it -- one should also be very interested in the closer problems, and there are hundreds of thousands of people living in absolute abject misery as displaced in Columbia today.  There are 80 Indian tribes that are really struggling to survive as ethnic groups, and some of them are getting extinct as we speak. 

Why does it continue so horrendously in Columbia when war was stopped generally in Central America and even in Peru because of the drugs?  There is this enormous source of revenue for guerillas, for paramilitaries, for everybody.  And I think also the Columbians have been able to run their war in a way with little international intention and pressure to really reach deals and settle this war of theirs.  There's a culture of violence which is just incredible and is continue -- and continuing, and it's -- this war is since 1963 which is how many years?  Fifty years.  But the -- but that is rooted in the Bogotas or the civil war between liberals and conservatives for 48, which was again in many ways based in the wars of the Republic, which again was based in the wars of the liberation struggle of Simon Bolivar, which again is based in the Spaniards coming in and even before the Spaniards came, the Indians were fighting a lot in Colombia.  So there's a cycle of violence that has to be broken.

SORENSEN:  Well -- all right, that's a lot to think about and I know there are questions.  If I can invite those questions and ask you to take the microphone, stand and introduce yourself.

Who would like to pose the first question?  Yes, right here.

QUESTIONER:  I'm Warren Hogue of The New York Times.

I want to talk about Darfur.  And another problem that Darfur illustrates and that I know you, Jan, are familiar with, which is that you have succeeded in attracting enormous attention to the situation in Darfur.  Go on American college campuses today, and the Darfur issue may be larger than the war.  It is an issue that cuts across both political parties in Washington.  There is colossal world pressure for doing something about Darfur. 

The Security Council has actually acted correctly in that it has passed a resolution which would create a United Nations force to go there to combine with the African Union force.  The Sudanese government has succeeded, as you know, in resisting that force and preventing it from going in and being accepted there.  The president of Sudan has said he would attack that force if it ever arrived.

My question is how frustrating is it that in this issue, where among so many, many issues, there is enormous public interest and public sway -- and one additional thing now, and my question will go to this, which is an interesting new part of the Darfur public campaign, which is the identification of China as standing in the way of progress, both because of its business deals with Darfur where it gets its oil, and because of its presence on the Security Council as a country with a traditional reluctance to pass sanctions, and in the case of Sudan, a particular one.

There is evidence -- and you cited it -- in Addis Ababa that the Chinese are now coming around.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe they're finally being embarrassed by public exposure of the fact that they end up protecting the Sudanese government and its actions in Darfur.  And you had the most additional interesting one of Steven Spielberg and other celebrities who have signed on to helping the Chinese promote the Olympics, which is something they care about deeply as a chance to show the world that they are a civilized, big, first power nation.  Steven Spielberg and others are saying, if you continue with your actions in Darfur, we won't be so willing to promote your Olympics.

What is your attitude, Jan, about that kind of non-conventional attracting of attention to this issue that you care about so much?  And that even with all the public attention its gotten, still seems to resist yielding?

EGELAND:  A very informed question, Warren, because you follow this as closely as I have over this period.

I mean, it's not only black -- well, it was my job to present it as very black and I did, because I played that role.  But of course, if we look back, the predictions of Andrew Natsios and USAID and so on was that between 500,000 and 1 million people would die in Darfur at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005.  There was a scientific model there.  And 10,000 per month was the one figure we could sort of scientifically show was the loss of life and that it was the same as in northern Uganda and the same as in Somalia in a way.

But the ethnic cleansing -- so we saved the lives of these people.  That's what I say.  And in sense, that is good.  And many more people -- many more people -- were killed by bullets and violence in Iraq in any of these years than in Darfur.  What happened, really, however, was that perhaps we were -- and here's my discussion at times with my humanitarian colleagues -- perhaps we were too successful really in getting attention to the need for humanitarian assistance and then getting in an army of 13,000 humanitarian workers -- 1,000 trucks -- and thereby keeping people so well alive that there wasn't the kind of a pressure on a collective Security Council to do what they should have done which was really to have put much stronger pressure Khartoum.

The big errors were 2003, 2004 -- as you remember the story.  The U.S. and the U.K. and Norway even didn't want me to go to the Security Council in the beginning, because it was interfering with the north-south talks.  It was Germany who had the courage, at the present to invite me to come there.  And China, Russia, Qatar, Pakistan were against even listening, even hearing the word "Darfur", even hearing about the problem there.  So when we should have acted, there was no action.

The other thing is, suffice to say, as a campaign which is very impressive, so is northern Uganda college campaign in this country.  It should not have concentrated so much to get President Bush to declare genocide, and President Bush to do this and President Bush to do that.  It should earlier have looked at targeting China, targeting India, targeting those who invest in the Sudan.  And for that matter, target the leaders and so on.  I mean, we had enough coverage in The New York Times.  We didn't need more coverage anymore, but we should have had much more in Al-Jazeera and in Chinese media and so on.  And I was alone in actually going on Jazeera again and again to speak about Darfur.

I'm ending here, but you got me started.  (Laughter.)  It's very interesting, of course, to see that whenever on the Sudanese media -- the Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, et cetera -- the coverage that they are running is, of course, Palestinians being killed, the children in Gaza being bombed, et cetera, et cetera and the loss of life in Iraq.  And what's happening then is -- this is what is happening.  This is what the U.S. not doing nothing about -- and by the way, President Bush says that there is genocide in Darfur.  And it doesn't -- it doesn't -- so when there was no -- the U.S. and the U.K. did all the right things on Darfur and it had little effect there.  We should have gotten a wider coalition in the beginning -- and I blame myself for not going sort of to Beijing more and less to Congress in this country.


QUESTIONER:  Susan Woodward at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

I'm fascinated that you decided to link humanitarian responsibility to protect with poverty.  And I want to ask you, are you suggesting we should start thinking about poverty as a humanitarian issue?  And if so, how are you thinking about reorienting international organizations to do so? 

Just a few bits:  You know that for the Peace Building Commission that was a big fight -- to whom should they report.  There is a big debate within development economics about whether focusing on the poor is counterproductive to solving poverty, because it focuses on individuals rather than development strategy.  People who work on violence say, both in terms of prevention on one hand and post-conflict reconstruction on the other, one needs to do more about developing the economy because of employment and domestic capacity.

So I think you're touching on so many important issues, but it may require a reorganization of international architecture to do so.  So I'm very curious about how you're thinking about that.

EGELAND:  I don't know.  Maybe not sophisticated enough, really, I'm thinking of this.  But it could also be a strength that I sort of just -- I always try to see a very clear problem you have 30,000 children dying unnecessarily every day in the world.  And they die for the following reasons -- and we could, if we had enough money to vaccinate all the children.  You know, it's $1 to vaccinate a child; $1 to feed -- school feed a child and so on and we could stop this.

Aid is only part of what should happen and will happen to end massive poverty as we know it until now.  The reason there is less than 1 billion people on less than $1-a-day for the first time is that the economy in China and India has lifted out hundreds of millions of people out from that kind of poverty and it's happening in Southeast Asia and so on.

The aid has to focus on around 50 countries, which is completely out of this.  It's not a question of unfair trade barriers to eastern Chad -- they have nothing to sell you or us in Europe at the moment.  It's desolate with a lot of people who are struggling to survive.  They need investment through assistance, really. 

And here I find it totally wrong that you can't solemnly swear to say, okay, we're coming to these people.  We're gong to give them more money every year, up to 0.7 of our gross national product, 50 billion extra from the G-8 and then they don't do anything.  It went down from 2005 to 2006 -- latest figures out from OSNT yesterday.  And conceptually, do we spend -- (inaudible) -- and so on?  I don't know.  At times we've had this problem in the development sector that you know, you have very good discussions but nobody goes out there to do -- to really act on it.  And I think we know how to act.  Africa, south of Sahara, is the one place where money is most needed and where there is no private investment.  So it has to be assistance.

SORENSEN:  Questions?  Bill -- yes.

QUESTIONER:  Bill Luers, Jan.  I always enjoy hearing you, because you always raise the level of discourse on these issues.

Let me talk about the U.N. for a minute, following on sort of Warren's question.  The big problem today in this country is that about 70 percent of the American people have a great feeling about the U.N., but only 29 percent -- roughly the same percent that support the President of the United States -- believe that the U.N. is doing anything very effectively.

So you have this wide gap between high expectations and a vision of low achievement.  It seems to me that the role of the U.N. right now is to try to narrow that gap, both in terms of perception and in terms of actual achievement.  It may be unfair, but that's the way it is.

It does seem to me that when you think about the issue of responsibility to protect, it does have the problem of raising expectations about the capacity of the U.N. and the Security Council to move sufficient troops, to move sufficient force to effect change within a country.  What we know is that that's the one thing that the U.N. is worse at.  So you're setting a standard for U.N. behavior that is even higher than we already have and that presents for the U.N. the problem of achieving some success and more success in areas where you've been, where you know we can do well.  I guess I'm worried about how the U.N. will achieve more and promise less.

EGELAND:  No, it's a good point.  We should not -- here we have, of course, different roles.  I just mentioned what the G-8 -- G-8 leaders promised.  I was all over the world welcoming the pledge and it didn't come through and now we have to hold them accountable.  And of course, we also have to hold leaders accountable for them solemnly swearing the responsibility to protect, and in Darfur they're not protecting.  We're keeping people alive until they are massacred, really.  It's the safe areas of Bosnia before Srebrenica, as I see Darfur today.

But at the same time, we have to be able to convey to the American public, which is so important to the U.N. -- not so much for the money, you know.  The little Japanese people have given us nearly as much money as the Americans now, as you know -- 22 percent and 90 percent to the regular budget.  But because, you know, if the American people do not believe in the U.N., it's going affect the organization.  It's very hard to work, really, because of the media and so on.  That's why your work in the U.N. association is so important.  And you and I went to Washington Times and met their editorial board and tried to do something.

We have to be able to tell American people that with considerably less than what the U.S. has spent every year in Iraq since 2003, the U.N. was able to turn around Congo.  It was seen as the worse case on earth with 20 different armies and five different countries fighting there and all the tribal gruesome massacres possible.  It was able to turn that around, plus Liberia, plus Sierra Leone, plus Angola, plus southern Sudan.  We can prove that from 3.5 million to 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced on Congo for example.  So it's cost efficient and have the results to show for it.

The story has not gotten out really and we need to get that one out.  NATO is a hundred times more expensive in Afghanistan than an average U.N. -- not hundred.  Five perhaps, but much more expensive.  And it's not that they are getting results which are vastly superior to the U.N.  Somehow we have to get the real story out in my opinion.


QUESTIONER:  Charlie MacCormack from Save the Children.

I'd like to follow up on Ambassador Luers’s questions, because it would seem to me at the broadest level the nongovernmental organizations and at the U.N. in general should be close allies and NGOs would be a natural vehicle for getting these messages out.  But in fact, both parties have considerable skepticism in regard to the other -- for reasons you would know, probably most of us are aware of.  It is a difficult cultural merging.

But what would be two or three things that the secretary-general and others could do within the U.N. system, and what would be two or three things that we in the NGO world could do to take this potential and make it more real than it is right now?

EGELAND:  Well, you know, I come from a culture -- the Scandinavian culture -- where there is a lot of -- some find to mixed, really -- but the government and the NGOs and so on work very closely together.  And some say Norway is a big NGO as a nation.  (Laughter.)

I think with the U.N. we made big progress in many cases and causes and so on.  But I understand, it's -- (inaudible) -- was this MSF.  I can understand MSF is, as the Red Cross, a bit cautious vis-à-vis those operations where we use political, military humanitarian developmental tools at the same time as the U.N.  And that is the one most difficult thing for us to work really a partnership, because the NGOs want to wave the pure, you know, pure flag and the U.N. has to use power at times.

But this, you know, holding the world responsible now to fund the end of massive poverty I think is the number one goal we have together.  And it's not a dream.  You know, if were even close to reaching the goals that have already been decided by politicians, there would be enough funding to end that massive hunger, for example.  It's not -- it's a few billion dollars.  It's not hundreds of billions of dollars.

So that is one.  And then the other one -- the responsibility to protect one we need to campaign on.  And then we need to campaign differently, because we need to go out of this northwestern cage, in my view.  And thereby, we need to seek allies in the south and the east and in Asia and in the Arab world, Islamic world in a very different manner.  These are two things we need to do.


QUESTIONER:  I'm Claudia Dreifus.  I'm with the Science Section of The New York Times and also with Columbia University's SIPA. 

My question to you, sir:  You said at the beginning of your talk that you were an optimist.  And I know it's very difficult to get a diplomat to speak personally and emotionally, but I'd like to ask you a personal and emotional question.  You were present at the Oslo Accords and were a facilitator.  And that was such an optimistic time in the history of the Middle East.  How do you personally feel seeing it unravel the way it has?  And what do you feel about your own work?  Can you speak perhaps not as a diplomat?

EGELAND:  On the Oslo Accords?


EGELAND:  Well, I mean, the Oslo Accords -- it was sort of a unique thing.  We managed -- four, five Norwegians to sign -- it had to be that small.  I was the deputy foreign minister.  There was the head of the trade union research facility that organized this, my assistant and the minister who knew of this.  And we got the PLO and Israel to meet together at the time when Israelis were in jail for meeting with the PLO and when there was a law against it -- as there was a law in U.S. Congress forbidding U.S. government officials to even touch the PLO.

So 14 rounds of secret negotiations led to the Oslo Accord.  And is it a bad agreement?  Is it a good agreement?  Well, it's their agreement.  Many believe we were, as Norwegians, mediators.  We were facilitators.  We were not in the room.  We let them talk.  They wanted to clinch the deal themselves and they did.  In the very final stages, the new foreign minister, Johan Jorgen Holst, helped mediate some language.

It's a -- we were very optimistic.  I believe we were seeing the beginning of the end to the conflict.  The Oslo Agreement was a five-year schedule for talks.  And it was supposed to -- and they agreed to disagree on the toughest questions:  Jerusalem, the refugees, the return of the refugees, the borders, the settlements and so on. 

What we thought was that we would get them to cooperate and to trade and to be aid and so on.  And then you could fix it a little bit, because nobody wanted ethnically pure states anyhow.  Maybe one could see them working together.

What do I feel personally?  I feel devastated, really, with what has happened.  And my last visit was the worst, in a way, because I mean, Gaza is such a miserable place now.  I mean, imaging Gaza is smaller than half of an average Norwegian municipality.  In this place you cram 1.7 million people of which more than half is less than 18 years old.  And you say, you cannot leave.  You cannot have hope.  You will never get a job.  You will never get a future.  And this is the fact.  And then you say, and here's of course the one thing you can do in your free time:  Hamas, jihad and the radical groups.  Of course it's an invitation to extremism.  It's strange that there isn't even more of them, because there's no alternative to devote your energies -- it's very sad.  And it has to change.

And I think it's very important for Americans to understand that, of course, it's not the biggest conflict in the world.  It's not the biggest loss of life or anything, but it's the symbol par excellence for most Muslim and Islamic world.  It's even more than Iraq.  People are watching every night in the Muslim and Arab world what -- which children died the last 48 hours in Gaza.  It has to be fixed, and the United States is the one which can drive it.  I mean, this is -- Darfur, I don't think the U.S. can unlock it.  In the Palestinian conflict, I think they can.  That is my personal view.

SORENSEN:  Yes.  Question.

QUESTIONER:  Kathleen Dumait-Harper.  I'm here as an independent person, but in memory to honor Arthur with whom we cooperate and worked very closely in my previous position as representative to the U.N. for -- (inaudible).

Actually, my question is a related question, but I would like to follow up on this. Jan, since you talk about making progress in the Oslo process, yes, we have to talk about the plight of the civilians.  And you were talking earlier about the media coverage and the campaign on campus.  And I'm always been surprised to see that here in our country we don't talk too much and we don't have much information about what is going on in the West Bank or in Gaza; you see much more on BBC, for example.  But my question to you is in your new position -- both of them -- what can you do?

EGELAND:  My new position?

QUESTIONER:  Yes -- both of them.

EGELAND:  Well, it's not -- it's a part-time position as a special adviser to the new secretary-general.  And what I hope is that I can help make -- give a small contribution to making the political side of the U.N. a little bit more action oriented and deployable and operational, because that has been part of the problem.  It was part of the Darfur experience, basically.

We were sitting around the table, Darfur was going up in flames.  (TPKO ?) all could do, could plan, you know, a force of 20,000 but they had no invitation to use it.  We could -- and could even send first 1,000, then another 1,000, then another 1,000 aid workers and so on.  And then on the political front, well, maybe we should make a phone call to -- make a phone call to President Bashir.  It wasn't.  It was too little too late, really.

From the humanitarian side we had Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, a countryman of mine, mediating twice a cease-fire at the end of 2003 and at the very beginning of 2004.  There was no clout in enforcing this politically, those cease-fires.  And I think now, hopefully, we will be able to more in the future give predictable political support.  It's very strange how the U.N. has slipped a little bit from, I think, the original good offices -- (inaudible) -- type work has become much more sort operational development -- the humanitarian side, peacekeeping side.  It should be the mainstay of our work is to do political solutions.

SORENSEN:  Last question.  Yes, Bob.

QUESTIONER:  I'm Bob DeVecchi, former senior fellow here at the council for refugees and Arthur's partner here at the council. 

And I'd like to join in the affectionate remembrance that we all feel for Arthur.  Our paths first crossed when I was with the International Rescue Committee, and I believe Arthur was with the Open Society.  And it started, really, in the field because Arthur was on of those persons who went out to see rather than sit back and have people come to him.  And we had the fortunate experience of collaborating very closely at the field level, including a place to sleep and something to eat in many situations.  So I think it's all together fitting that we have an Arthur Helton memorial such as this.  And I applaud everyone who's been involved.

I have a question, and maybe it seems far off, but looking at the Iraqi refugees both in Syria and in Jordan and looking at the internal displacement, the kind of -- in some ways a self-imposed ethnic cleansing that's going on there, as we had seen in -- a separation of ethnic groups.  Unless there's some action taken or some concern shown, other than what's going on now, are we not perhaps creating the Palestinian refugees for the next generation?  In other words, if the Iraqis, who are now in Jordan and Syria and say that they're not going home, that they've got no home to go to, if we really take that seriously, we have to think of a durable solution for them and not just sort of throw a few resettlement opportunities and a little money at it.  Because if you're talking about now a potential refugee population that feels they have no way of going home and no desire to go home of over 1 million people on the borders of -- in the Middle East -- isn't that in some ways what happened in 1948?

EGELAND:  Well, is it the same as '48?  I don't know.  But certainly, the ethnic engineering, as it's called -- which is really ethnic cleansing -- in Iraq is massive at the moment.  There was a very good article in the excellent, The New York Times today -- the best paper in the world, in my view -- which showed this, you know, Shi'a community which apparently works very well.  In fact, there is a geographic, autocratic, totalitarian Shi'a, you know, in Baghdad.  It's very, very dangerous. 

But it's not like -- today it's not easy -- it's not a magic solution to any of these things.  It's -- the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs and the Shi'a are all involved in this really.  And it's not black and white.  It's shades of gray and black here.  But I completely agree with you.  Very major rearrangements of the map are happening now and it's very, very, very difficult to rearrange it as it was and is in the Balkans, really.  Many of those who -- and it is and it will be in Cyprus, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

It may be in the end a separation; that is, a de facto separation.  How do you do it?  I don't know.  I don't know.  Again, back to somehow getting the neighbors.  I don't think Westerners -- one of the mistakes we did in the early days in Iraq was -- we saw that very clearly -- we were flocking in 650 international staff, most of them Westerners, who looked like, spoke like, acted like the coalition forces.  And it didn't help the U.N. image in Iraq.

SORENSEN:  On that note, let me thank you, Jan Egeland, for being with us.

I would go back to your opening remarks when you did in fact say that some things are better.  Some things are changing.  And you called yourself an optimist, despite everything.  So we'll choose to draw from your optimism and to encourage and support what you do so magnificently and to do what we ourselves can as well. 

Thank you for being with us.  (Applause.)

EGELAND:  Thank you.








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