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An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century Hardcover – Apr 4 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; First Edition edition (April 4 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385660693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385660693
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #195,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Thoughtful and passionate.”
The Globe and Mail

“With vivid personal anecdote, Orbinski chronicles the struggle around humanitarian intervention in one hotspot after another across the planet. In a narrative of grace and power, he displays the intense components of his remarkable life: integrity, compassion and principle. He is undaunted in the face of the worst the world has to offer. He is determined to salve the wounds of humankind. He is a truly committed man, mind and soul throbbing with incandescent decency.”
— Stephen Lewis, Former UN Special Envoy

An Imperfect Offering is more than a memoir of life on the frontlines of disaster — it is a provocative and revealing meditation on what it means to be human. What do we do, and what should we do, in the face of unspeakable suffering.”
Ottawa Citizen

“James Orbinski has lived for years in the middle of the worst that humans can be, and somehow emerged with both his compassion and his desire to understand us intact. He is a marvellous storyteller, and the stories he has to tell are some of the most powerful I have ever read.”
— Stephanie Nolen, author of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

“In this complex era of massive abuses to human rights by governments in too many countries, it is suprising to read such a poignant book that describes, without fanfare, the constant ethical, moral, and even legal dilemmas that those in the field must confront hundreds of times a day. Clarity, compassion and commitment are presented in spades in this book about those who are fighting the lack of political will that too often fails to prevent man's inhumanity to man.”
— L.Gen. Roméo Dallaire, author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

“The rich beauty of Dr. James Orbinski’s writing contrasts with the stark poverty and suffering of the people he has served…. This book exposes truths most of us would rather not know. Do not put it down…. See who you become after reading it.”
Canadian Medical Association Journal

“A powerful personal memoir from a courageous Canadian who has spent most of his adult life in front-line humanitarian work in the world’s worst conflict zones…. It’s also a hopeful story about the emergence of MSF as a new and independent agent of civil society, and the possibilities of making the world a better place.”
Edmonton Journal

“A highly personal and wrenching memoir.”
The Walrus

“Almost unbearably intense…. Orbinski’s writing is strongest and most compelling when he is recounting his actual experiences as a doctor.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Orbinski pulls no punches…. With his vivid descriptions, Orbinski brings the stench of death and illness to his pages with unflinching realism, giving us detailed narratives of such shameful events as the ruthless genocide of over one million Tutsis in Rwanda, and the United Nations’ complicity in turning a blind eye to the horror.”
Toronto Star

"An essential text for our dire times. Orbinski plunges into the heartbreak, the maelstrom, the moral dilemmas of the genocide territories of the world — Rwanda, Kosovo, Sudan — and finds there enough courage and redemption for us all to feel that there is hope for our sad humanity."
— Ariel Dorfman

About the Author

Dr. James Orbinski is a past international President of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). He is a Research Scientist and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Political Science at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. He is a founder of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical research and development entity focused on the diseases of the South. He recently founded Dignitas, an organization focused on community based treatment, care and prevention of HIV in the developing world. Dr. Orbinski lectures internationally on humanitarianism and global health.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Just finished Dr. James Orbinski's new book, An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the 21st Century. For those of you who don't know him, Orbinski is one of Canada's global health heroes. He accepted the Nobel Prize for Doctors Without Borders while he was its international president and has since worked on developing MSF's Access to Essential Medicine's Campaign and establishing Dignitas International, an organization that provides community-based HIV/AIDS treatment in Malawi.

I've heard Orbinski speak a couple of times, including at the Hope in the Balance forum last November. His talks provoke the idea of thoughts and a world view constantly evolving. This makes him especially human, despite his almost super-human committment to justice and health. One of his strongest messages is the world's need to create what he calls "humanitarian space," unobstructed by politics and military. Orbinski's experiences in Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere have made clear the problems of military co-option of humanitarian action. The classic example is the dropping of both bombs and food packets within Afghanistan; in several cases children have confused the two and were harmed rather than fed.

Orbinski's book is part memoir, part call to action. He takes the reader through some of the most devastating humanitarian disasters of the past 20-odd years, from the Rwandan Genocide to New York on September 11, 2001, when Orbinski worked in triage at Ground Zero. It struck me that on several occasions Orbinski has had a relationship with the countries he visits beyond their experience of humanitarian emergency, allowing him to describe the harsh differences between the time of acute crisis and normal daily life.
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Format: Hardcover
It really is difficult to find words to describe the hope that this book gives. Although it describes deeply disturbing and difficult to comprehend suffering, it is written by a man who continually describes himself as 'a man' but describes situations in where his behaviour and devotion come straight from heaven. "A human perspective on suffering" just doesn't do this book justice. this book provides the decidely un-human (meaning more than human) perspective and unbelievable willingness to accept hope in the face of evidence that there should be none. It should be mandatory reading.
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Format: Paperback
Whenever you feel like world isn't turning right..
This book helps you figure out why.

It puts words on images, despair, sufferings.
It puts words where we refuse to put them.

To be read.
And listened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An Imperfect Offering is a deeply moving, captivatingly told story of one man's lifetime of humanitarian efforts that border on the super human. It is hard not to retain hope for our future even in the face of the horrors intimately described in this book when we have people around with the depth of care for the human condition shown by Dr. Orbinski.

Briefly covering his early upbringing including the seeds of his exceptional compassion Dr. Orbrinski moves to his assignments with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Somalia, Afghanistan and Rwanda. His narrative is intensely personal and disturbing. The Rwandan genocide was particularly difficult and is the subject of a lengthy and graphic chapter. Later Dr. Obrinsky describes his term as president of MSF during which he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF in 1999 and his pivotal roles in; founding Dignitas International to "harness the natural compassion of communities," launching the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines to bring life saving drugs to millions living in poverty and creating the Drugs for Neglected Diseases, a company to develop drugs with insufficient profit potential to interest big Pharma. One wants to cheer with each of Dr. Obrinski's successes and can't help sharing his tears.

Throughout Dr. Obrinski delves into the global political milieu, it's affect on humanitarian actions and MSF's responses which often forge a new and timely direction for NGOs. It is a useful addition to the book but is done from a typically Canadian left wing position resulting in a rather one-sided perspective. For example, he dismisses all of Bush's (the second) actions following 9/11 with scant thought or understanding.
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