In August 19, 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19th August every year as World Humanitarian Day.
Every day, humanitarian aid workers stand on the front lines of war and disaster, braving tremendous dangers and difficulties to deliver assistance to those who need it most. Thus, each year, World Humanitarian Day focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crisis, and for the safety and security of aid workers.
The Theme for this year is: “In The Race Against The Climate Crisis, We Can’t Leave Anyone Behind”. It highlights the immediate human cost of the climate crisis by pressurizing world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The United Nations Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, because they understood that it would not be possible to stem the tide of climate crisis if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development for all people everywhere, and ensure that their rights were protected. The Sustainable Goals cover a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water and sanitation, energy, environment and social justice.
Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action) is a call for immediate action by all to lower greenhouse emissions, build resilience and improve education on climate change.
Humanitarian endeavor can only be achieved if concrete action is taken to combat climate change. United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, once said that nature does not negotiate. He listed four key measures that Governments should prioritize in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. They are: tax pollution, not people; stop subsidizing fossil fuels; stop building new coal plants by 2020 and focus on a green economy, not a grey economy.
Modern challenges of poverty, hunger, diminishing natural resources, water scarcity, social inequality, environmental degradation, diseases, corruption, racism and xenophobia, among others pose challenges for humanity and create fertile grounds for conflicts.
Humanitarians make up a large number of people who endanger their own lives to save others. They are often known to be the first to respond to a crisis and last to leave. Hence, such persons deserve mention and celebration. Humanitarians are crucial for today’s time to strengthen the Global Humanitarian Response.
People from more than half of the Red Cross or Red Crescent Volunteers worldwide are among the first to respond in case of any disaster, epidemics, and conflicts. They involve themselves in every aspects of crisis response, including search and rescue, assessing needs, looking after the elderly, and using social media to convey relevant information.
Humanitarians are not only the ones who help humans who are in need, but others in special need. This World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to every individual who works for the needy by risking their life. Even if you step out to provide face masks, food and medication for the underprivileged, you are a humanitarian, and this day is to celebrate you.
Being a humanitarian may not involve travelling to a war zone – the point of humanitarian aid is to alleviate people’s suffering and maintain human dignity. Therefore, there are plenty of options for you, just close to your home. Try volunteering at a shelter for the homeless or a nursing home, a hospital or a place that serves underprivileged children.
All humanitarians should wake up to take decisive actions to protect the most vulnerable.