Today, 19 August, marks World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to recognising humanitarian efforts around the world.
The 2019 theme for World Humanitarian Day, implemented by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Human Affairs (OCHA), is ‘Women Humanitarians’. Of the more than 500,000 humanitarian aid workers operating in regions afflicted by conflict and disasters, around 40% are women; meanwhile, women are typically disproportionately affected by the impacts of war, natural disasters and displacement. UN Women, the branch of the United Nations aimed at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, highlights the invaluable work performed by women humanitarian workers acting as ‘leaders in recovery and resilience’, noting: ‘Every disaster affects women. Every response must include women.’
In a joint statement released to commemorate World Humanitarian Day, European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: “Violations of international humanitarian law continue to be one of the most critical challenges for the protection of civilians, as well as the protection of humanitarian and medical workers. Violence against humanitarian workers affects civilians and prevents millions of people from receiving life-saving assistance. Saving lives should not cost lives.
“Around 400 humanitarian workers have been victims of major attacks in 2018, making it the second worst year in history. Over one third of them were killed and the other third was kidnapped. World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to honour these dedicated humanitarians and to advocate for their safety and security. Humanity, independence, neutrality and impartiality are the principles on which humanitarian aid is grounded. These should protect relief workers, enabling them to operate freely. The EU and its Member States are the world leader[s] in humanitarian assistance. Promoting principled humanitarian aid and respect for international humanitarian law remains at the core of our international engagement.”