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The Politics of Humanity: The Reality of Relief Aid Hardcover – 1 Mar 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781850917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781850916
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 513,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Offers a glimpse into the workings of the global humanitarian machinery; at the same time it is a frank and engaging contribution to the debate on the efficacy of humanitarianism' TLS.

About the Author

John Holmes worked in the Foreign Office for 34 years, finishing as Ambassador in Paris, before taking up the role of UN USG for Humanitarian Affairs in 2007.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lloyd on 19 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While this is an excellent book I would not be writing this review if the only option was to buy it in printed version. I suspect that only academics,aid professionals and the like will buy the hardback version. However, this book deserves a much wider audience of people like myself who have an intelligent interest in what is happening in the world and support various international charities. So firstly thank you Amazon Kindle for meeting this need at the bargain price of £2.49.

It has taken me the best part of three weeks to read this book as it is not a light read and there is so much in each chapter that deserves thinking over before moving on to the next chapter. The early chapters take one country in turn (Darfur, South Sudan, Sri Lanka etc) and describes the causes of the disaster that has hit it and then the actions to address them. Often it is heartbreaking with the frustration at the UN not being able to help as much as should be possible due to the obstructions of the local government or others for various reasons that are well explained.

Having worked my way through the book to the final three chapters the author sets out intelligently his conclusions and recommendations for the way forward. Chapter 12 for example, talks about prevention being better than the cure and the need for "disaster risk reduction" as well as the building of disaster management capacity.

This review is difficult to write as the author has taken such care to be thorough in his argument supported by the evidence and a short review can not do it justice. I would conclude by repeating that it deserves to be read widely by those of us who are not experts and I recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JQG on 9 April 2013
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An excellent account of the UN's efforts to help the most distressed countries on earth. John Holmes lights up the political background to the appalling humanitarian disasters in places like Sudan, Sri Lanka and the DRC, with real feeling for the impact on ordinary people of greed, autocracy and rotten government. A must for anyone interested in today's most troubled communities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adam Stewart on 27 Jun. 2013
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This book delivers exactly what it says it will: the reality of relief aid. John Holmes uses his first hand experiences to explain the effects of inernational politics on helping those desperately in need around the world and the intense difficulty of putting the relief work into action. It is written so that even someone new to humanitarian work can glide through it.
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The news. In West Africa Ebola rages, an epidemic out of control. In Syria hundreds of thousands flee before the armies of ISIS. Famine is stalking South Sudan. Refugees are drowning in the waters of the Mediterranean. What should be done? What can be done?

John Holmes was once tasked with answering questions like this. From 2007 to 2010 he was Emergency Relief Co-ordinator for the United Nations – the Tsar, if you will, of humanitarian aid. This book is essentially his report on those years – the years of Darfur and Haiti, Gaza before and Sri Lanka, Congo and South Sudan again.

It is not easy to get through. No serious consideration of these problems is going to be.

In an introduction he explains exactly what humanitarian aid is, who is involved in delivering it and what his role as ERC was. Then he deals with the big crises of his period in office. The management of each crisis is critically and honestly reviewed. Not by any means was everything everywhere done well - in Darfur, he admits, “everyone failed”. But he picks out what worked, what showed promise, what could have been modified, what might have been tried.

The final three chapters bring it all together. These are pages of sustained analysis and reflection. No sentence is redundant. No statement is unsupported. There is an enormous amount here, no summary can do it justice. He is unstintingly practical, pragmatic. There are the simple but potent interventions – straws that filter dirty water.Going to a higher level he expounds the crucial principle of use local resources, local people, local experts wherever possible, and developing them where it is not. Anticipate and prepare –the Disaster Risk Reduction Programme, already delivering results in the recent floods in Manila and in Kashmir.
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