Jan Egeland is former Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and was one of the closest advisors to Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan during his tenure. He is currently Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Egeland is the recipient of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's Freedom from Want Award for 2008, one of the Institute's Four Freedoms Awards.
In “A Billion Lives,” Egeland narrates the backdrop of international crisis he is involved with, often providing the reader with a first hand account of his mind set when he approaches world leaders, warlords and other stakeholders in a way that is uniquely outspoken in style compared to the vast majority of his colleagues in international diplomacy. Continuing in the strand of mixing viewpoints, he offers a glimpse of the often contradictory relationship between public perceptions and what is being portrayed in the media, and what ‘real’ backroom diplomacy is about and what is being accomplished though it might not seem that way from the outside.
About the book and Egeland, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute says: “With his brave leadership and unique experience, Egeland takes us to the front lines. He draws wise and bold lessons from these global hotspots as to how we can organize a safer and more prosperous world for all.”
Jan Egeland has throughout his life in the public sphere been known for his ability to cut through empty talk and speak his mind. His fearlessness and sense of right and wrong has caused many controversies, but is also an important reason why he has been able to accomplish as much as he has. Egeland himself has described his positions in the UN as “a unique opportunity to speak truth to power.”
In 2006 TIME Magazine claimed his job title should be “the world’s conscience” when they placed him among the 100 people that shape our world in the wake of his thundering criticism of the world community’s response to the Tsunami disaster in South East Asia. Commenting on the state of the world, Egeland is optimistic: "For the vast majority of people, the world is getting better, that there is more peace, more people fed and educated, and fewer forced to become refugees than a generation ago. So there is reason for optimism."