On the World Humanitarian Day

On the 19th of August, we commemorate the World Humanitarian Day, the day coinciding with 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

The day honors the essential and dangerous work of humanitarian workers worldwide, be it in Syria, Yemen or Ukraine. Brave women and men, in many cases volunteers, a community whose dedication and unselfishness has been key to the humanitarian response in Ukraine and for us reaching those most vulnerable, and in need, those whose world has been torn apart by conflict

Civil society and NGOs were the first, second and third responders to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and had played a significant role ever since, most notably in providing direct assistance.

One of the more depressing features of the conflict in Ukraine is the diminishing of the humanitarian space: humanitarian access being denied, humanitarian principles are threatened, the protection of civilians being disregarded and bureaucracy significantly reducing the effectiveness of the humanitarian response, and NGO workers being harassed or even targeted.

This has seriously put at risk the ability of humanitarian organizations to efficiently deliver assistance to the most vulnerable, on both sides of the contact line.

The theme of this year’s World Humanitarian Day is One Humanity.  The agenda for humankind stress five core responsibilities: political leadership to prevent and end conflicts, upholding the norms which safeguard humanity, leaving no one behind, changing people’s lives from delivering aid to ending need and investing in humanity. Well worth noting is that the ordinary citizens bear the brunt of suffering when political leadership cause, fails to prevent or bring about an end to the humanitarian crisis.

In Ukraine, among responders and organization providing humanitarian assistance, there is sometimes the perception of this being a forgotten conflict and crisis outside Ukraine; that the loud discussion of politics is drowning out our message of the needs of the Ukrainian people.  This especially frustrating considering the months of escalating violence in eastern Ukraine, with significant increases in both military and civilian casualties.

This day we honor, and will not forget, those who have lost their lives pursuing their quest of helping others. Since 1997 more than 1400 humanitarian workers have been killed in their line of duty, people whose dedication brought them to areas of natural disasters and zones of conflicts across the globe to help some of those 125 million individuals in need of humanitarian assistance.