Stay and deliver

Jan Egeland is the executive director of NUPI

Jan Egeland is the executive director of NUPI, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Photo: NUPI

Interview with Jan Egeland, Executive Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

Marit Fosse

Norwegian American Weekly

We recently sat down for an interview with Jan Egeland, former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator and the Executive Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

Marit Fosse: What are you doing today?

Jan Egeland: I am issuing two reports. The first one, launched in New York, Berlin and Oslo, was entitled “To stay and deliver: Good practice for humanitarians in complex security environments.” It describes how increasingly humanitarian organizations have been the victims of threats and violence.

Over the last ten years, it has never been so dangerous to do humanitarian work. We have a seen a number of attacks against humanitarian workers, especially in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Congo. Therefore, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) commissioned a report from a team of experts. I led that team; the other two members are very experienced experts called Abby Stoddard and Adele Harmer. We visited countries experiencing situations of humanitarian insecurity and we carried out hundreds of interviews while surveying more than 1,000 national humanitarian workers. The purpose of the report was to identify how organizations can better survive in difficult circumstances, while also effectively delivering assistance in difficult and threatening situations. In the report there are hundreds of examples giving advice on good practices that organizations have adopted, whether UN organizations or non-governmental organizations.

The report can be found on OCHA’s home page ( I think that a lot of humanitarian organizations with field presence, as well as diplomatic missions, etc. may find it very useful to consult this report.

MF: What about the second report and your visit to Geneva?

JE: The second report I’m launching is on global climate services. This was a mandate issued by the World Climate Conference held in Geneva in September 2009. The conference was a big success and thousands of delegates attended.

World Climate Services are the next ambitious project of the international community on the climate agenda. As you may know, the climate conferences have adopted three mandates: one in the Kyoto; the second one was for an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during the Johannesburg process; and the third one was for climate information services and knowledge to be provided worldwide to all vulnerable communities through a system called the Global Framework of Climate Services.

I launched the report – a consensus report from this high-level task-force – during the World Meteorological Congress in Geneva on May 16, 2011. Earlier in the week, I was in Geneva to talk about Global Climate Services at the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction Conference.

MF: Although you are the Director of NUPI, a Norwegian research institution, you seem to be quite involved in the international community in Geneva.

JE: Yes, very much so. All of my life I have been travelling back and forth to Geneva, as a Red Crosser, or as a Norwegian government official or as a U.N. employee or expert. At present, it’s in the latter capacity. I’m very excited about helping to advance international work on the climate. It is very concrete.

MF: You have been busy with these reports for some time. What is your next endeavor?

JE: I have just been given a new job as the Executive Director for Europe on Human Rights. So I am re-joining human rights and activism. I will be based in Oslo, and still work for international organizations. When Human Rights Watch offered me a key position, I jumped at it.

MF: What is so important about human rights? You are going from Humanitarian work to human rights. Is that not a big shift?

JE: I started working on human rights. I was chairman of Amnesty International at the age of 21, and now I am coming back to human rights work. In the meantime I have been working on humanitarian activities and peace. They are all interconnected because human rights are the foundation of all of this.

For more information about Jan Egeland, visit

This article was originally published in the May 20, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email

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Marit Fosse

Marit Fosse trained as an economist from Norwegian school of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen (Norges Handelshøyskole NHH) and then earned a doctorate in social sciences. She is the author of several books. Nansen: Explorer and Humanitarian, co-authored with John Fox, was translated into Russian/Armenian/French. In addition, Fosse is the editor of International Diplomat/Diva International in Geneva, a magazine set up 20 years ago for diplomats and persons working in the international organizations in Geneva but also elsewhere. In her free time, Fosse is an accomplished painter.