John Holmes was the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs from 2007 until 2010. His work took him to some of the most troubled areas of the world: to Sri Lanka, Darfur, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among other places, and exposed him to the harsh realities of humanitarian aid.
Frequently he found that the UN's humanitarian programmes in these hotspots were tolerated but consistently undermined and mistrusted by both sides in any conflict, and its efforts to protect civilians and provide humanitarian relief frustrated by people working for purely political ends.
Clear-eyed about the realities of development aid, Holmes realised early on that his role was to be a voice to the voiceless. THE POLITICS OF HUMANITY exposes, in often depressing detail, how difficult this job is, as well as analysing and exploring in great depth the wider policy questions of his role.