On 19 August 2009 and for the first time, the international community paid tribute to the brave humanitarian workers who devote their time and energy to come to the rescue of innocent victims of war and natural catastrophes across the world.
19 of August, the day in 2003 when a bomb attack in Baghdad killed 22 U.N. employees, among them their chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, became World Humanitarian Day. It was crucial for the Foundation that, at least once a year, the work accomplished by dedicated men and women of good will working in difficult and dangerous places be officially recognized.
Humanitarian workers are active in some of the most hostile areas - Darfur, Somalia and Afghanistan, to name the three places where they are most frequently attacked , facing heat, cold, diseases and danger. They are killed, wounded, raped and kidnapped. Violent attacks again humanitarian workers are increasing ominously. Last year, 122 were killed. In 1998, the death toll was 36. Over the last ten years, a total of 750 humanitarian workers have been killed on duty.
It is in the spirit of the Foundation that World Humanitarian Day has been created with the aim of perpetuating the humanitarian values of dedicated men and women who, like Sergio Vieira de Mello, made the utmost sacrifice - their life - in pursuing their ideal: helping the most vulnerable.
This memorable day was celebrated throughout the world. The key ceremony was held in Geneva, the world humanitarian capital.
2009 World Humanitarian Day Film
Commemorations on the inaugural World Humanitarian Day were held in more than 50 countries around the world. The following countries held conferences and events to promote the humanitarian work : Belgium, Canada, Central African Republic, Tchad, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran , Irak , Kenya, Latin America (Regional Office, Panama), Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand (Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, Bangkok), United States, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
• Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations - Press release
[PDF - 51 ko]
• Mr. Sergei A. Ordzhoni kidze, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
[PDF - 51 ko]
• Mrs Annie Vieira de Mello, Vice-President of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation - La Tribune de Genève
[PDF - 56 ko]
• Mr Eric Schwarz, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, United States
• Mr Laurent Vieira de Mello, President of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation - Washington Post
[PDF - 86 ko]
• Mrs Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State - Press release
[PDF - 76 ko]
• Feuille d'Avis Officielle
[PDF - 1.05 Mo]
• Mr Imogen Foulke, local correspondent of the BBC in Geneva - BBC News
“Last year 122 international aid workers were killed, a death toll that was higher than that for UN peacekeeping troops. […] Aid workers are increasingly being targeted by armed groups. [...] Killing or kidnapping them has become for some a legitimate tactic.[...] The UN hopes the day will serve as a reminder that aid work is based on a very simple principle: to bring impartial humanitarian relief to all those in need”
• Mr John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN - Dailystar
“Today is the first ever World Humanitarian Day, an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come toward the ideal that everyone in need should be helped – regardless of their nationality, race, religion or politics. It is a remarkable achievement that when crisis strikes today, it is taken for granted that aid workers will be on the scene within hours. […] But I am most of all saddened and increasingly horrified by the rising attacks on aid workers. While humanitarians have always recognized the difficulties and dangers of what they do – the risk of being caught up in events, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time – the attacks on them are increasingly targeted.”
• Mr Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, former Prime Minister of Portugal - Dailystar
“There is no justification for attacks on aid workers dedicated to the protection and care of the world’s most vulnerable people. […] Ensuring staff safety must be a top priority of every humanitarian organization and the United Nations as a whole. This is non-negotiable. [...] And yet, with the evolving nature of armed conflict and the changing attitudes of some belligerents, the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers has increased, establishing a tension – and in some situations a contradiction – between the imperatives of staff safety and humanitarian action.”
• Mr Abdul-Haq Amiri, Director of OCHA for Middle-East, North Africa and Central Asia - The National
“In our region, you may remember this year alone in Pakistan four officers lost their lives. We had 17 attacks in Afghanistan on humanitarian convoys; some 42 tons of food was lost as a result. ??“We are all facing serious challenges.” […] “At the same time we have a huge security situation here where workers are constantly, if not targeted, caught up in security incidents. We had a bomb blast where we lost five colleagues in Peshawar about six weeks ago, in a five-star hotel, and six more critically injured. Then we had one shooting at a camp four weeks ago, where we lost one officer.”?[…] “Losing colleagues around you demoralizes you, the whole operation suffers but you cannot take a break, cannot take a pause, because you have to respond because the needs are still there. It becomes very challenging. You do question why you’re doing this if you’re not appreciated.”