The man who deals with disasters: ‘If it was an impossible job I would not be trying to do it’

By Bibi van der Zee

Stephen O’Brien’s appointment as head of the UN’s relief organisation was controversial from the start. A year on and a week before a humanitarian summit, is he the man for the job?

It was not the best time to start this particular new job. Stephen O’Brien took up the reins at the UN agency in charge of organising humanitarian aid on 1 June 2015, slap-bang in the middle of the worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war.

At that point, the news about the refugee crisis was still not getting through to most people. UN agencies and NGOs were frantically trying to deal with a vast wave of fleeing refugees in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, a population movement triggered by conflict combined with other factors including climate change, economic need and joblessness. The cost of getting food and shelter for the refugees was mounting hourly – the UN’s annual appeal for humanitarian funding hit £20bn by the end of 2016 – and the humanitarian system was starting to crack under the strain, but somehow the story was not getting through to the public. O’Brien’s task, getting media attention, coordinating humanitarian manpower and rallying nation states to dig deep into their pockets to fund the work, must have seemed insuperable.

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Read more here:: The Guardian – Global Development