World Humanitarian Day: Let's All Make a Greater Commitment to Life-Saving Action
Stephen O'Brien and Christos Stylianides - The Guardian
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August 19, 2015

World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. (United Nations)

In today’s volatile world, more than 100 million people need urgent, life-saving humanitarian aid just to survive. More than 60 million have been forced from their homes, in the worst displacement since the second world war.

Yet, in today’s interconnected world, every one of us has the power to inspire our fellow human beings to join the action to make the world a better place. The United Nations and the European Union have long been partners in delivering life-saving aid when conflict, war and natural disasters strike, with millions of lives saved every year. Today we reflect on and celebrate these achievements, borne of a collective commitment based on shared principles and values.

Dissemination of aid would not be possible without the dedicated humanitarian workers around the world. This is why the UN general assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day, in memory of the 22 colleagues killed in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. It is a day to remember and pay tribute to all humanitarian workers killed as they seek to help the world’s most vulnerable people.

In 2014, 10 humanitarian workers lost their lives each month. Violent attacks against humanitarian workers were recorded in 27 countries. Those at greatest risk are often the national staff of aid organisations, women and men from countries affected by crises. Seventy-seven aid workers have lost their lives in Syria since the start of that conflict. Killings, kidnappings and attacks are daily risks in a world where 80% of humanitarian aid is being delivered to civilians caught up by conflict.

Violence and insecurity hamper the delivery of aid in many of today’s crises. This is unacceptable. The world should show zero tolerance to those in conflicts who flagrantly fail to respect and protect humanitarian workers in accordance with international humanitarian law. We also look to the UN security council to insist on this protection.

Today we also celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world. This spirit knows no national or cultural boundaries. Just as the people of Europe have shown great commitment to delivering and supporting aid, we see – every day – selfless and heroic acts by humanitarian workers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific and the Americas. We applaud the very best of humanity.

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