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2012 World Humanitarian Day

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"We all see the headlines and ask ourselves: What can I do to help? The World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to show that we are here and that we care about the humanitarian cause" - Beyoncé

"I was here" in 2012

For the fourth consecutive year, August 19th will mark the World Humanitarian Day, this unique moment in the year when the world pays tribute to these workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who take great risks in order to help victims of war, violence, natural disasters and by doing so often risk their own lives. Since last year, 112 humanitarian workers were killed in the line of duty.

It is the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation, which advocated to the United Nations the idea to create a special day dedicated to humanitarian workers. With the support of Brazil, France, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland, the United Nations General Assembly decided in 2008 that August 19th would now be dedicated to those who work behind the scenes to help the poorest.

August 19th was indeed marking a dramatic turning point in the history of humanitarian aid when a truck bomb blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad in Iraq in 2003, injuring dozens of people and taking the lives of 22 employees, including the special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

This "black day" as qualified by the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, was to change everything in the history of humanitarian aid. One could no longer count on the United Nations flag to protect humanitarian workers.

The Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation has fought and continues to do so as part of this special day, to remind the armed forces in conflicts that humanitarian workers are also entitled to protection because they relieve the sufferings of innocent victims with their unselfish work.

In this regard, this day remains faithful to the ideals of Sergio Vieira de Mello as recalled by his son, Laurent: "My father just loved people," he said in New York during the recording of the song by Beyoncé, the new ambassador for this day. "He treated everyone on the same equal footing, with the same respect whether they were a refugee, a security guard or the UN Secretary General."

A turning point

World Humanitarian Day takes it a step further this year, addressing not only humanitarian workers, but also honoring those who every day make an action, small or big, to help his neighbor. Indeed, it is true that the first to assist in a humanitarian crisis, before arrival of the UN professionals and NGOs, are neighbors, ordinary people. Local communities, national and international organizations and the general public are able to create a large chain of solidarity.

"I was here"

It was in New York, in the heart of the United Nations headquarters, that the music video of famous singer Beyoncé was recorded in the hall of the UN General Assembly. The new Goodwill Ambassador has, indeed, decided to donate her song "I was here", which becomes the anthem of World Humanitarian Day and will kick off the events of August 19th. The campaign encourages all users to go on website and commit to do something, in this particular day, to help someone in need, the goal being to achieve one billion volunteers.

Beyoncé's song is right on time because it reminds that in this short stay that we all spend on earth, we can make a gesture towards the others. "World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for us all to work together to make a difference", said the international star during the recording of the music video at the UN General Assembly.

Worldwide coverage

From New York to Geneva, Dubai, Brussels, Colombia, Ethiopia, Niger, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Japan, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. .... World Humanitarian Day will be marked by various events: a roundtable in Geneva with journalists (New York Times, France-Inter, the Herald Tribune, Channel 4 News, Svenska Dagbladet from Sweden) covering crises and who, as humanitarian workers, often put their lives in danger and the heads of the major humanitarian agencies (OHCHR, UNHCR, ICRC); screening of the music video by Beyoncé in the largest mall in Dubai during the Eid, the busiest day of the year; a photo exhibition and a concert in Niger; special radio and television programs in Colombia and South Sudan; screening of Beyoncé’s music video in the Bangkok Metro, etc.

The event will be also marked in Geneva by the commemoration of a plate in memory of those who lost their lives in the Baghdad bombing and that will be relocated to a place of passage at the “Palais des Nations” in order that all who pass by can remember the extraordinary work that aid workers are doing in the field.

Already in 1999, Sergio Vieira de Mello, then Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - United Nations), said before the Security Council of the UN: "Helping people in war zones has become increasingly dangerous .... The casualties among humanitarian workers are simply atrocious. "

Unfortunately, little has changed since and Sergio Vieira de Mello was also to pay the price. It is to remember that it should no longer be so, and to honor those who, nevertheless, continue to take risks that the World Humanitarian Day must become a date in the year more and more favored.




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