In this podcast we hear about a new annual observance to highlight the efforts and the risks faced by aid workers around the world.


[display_podcast] This podcast made available from Vatican Radio

This podcast features the Caritas Internationalis Humanitarian Director Alistair Dutton


World Humaritian Day – 19 August 2009

source – UN World Humanaritian Day website (includes video from UN Secretary General)

The UN General Assembly determined in December 2008 that World Humanitarian Day should be marked on 19 August every year to contribute to increasing public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in this regard, as well as to honour all humanitarian and UN and associated personnel who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause and those who have lost their lives in the cause of duty

19 August is the same day as the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003 that led to the death of 22 people including the SRSG, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The UN General Assemblychose that date as an appropriate one and the focus this, the first year, will be primarily on commemorating those whose lives have been lost while engaged in humanitarian operations at a time when humanitarian work is becoming more dangerous every year. But the purpose of the day is also to put emphasis on current humanitarian needs and challenges, and particularly on the beneficiaries on whose behalf we work.

World Humanitarian Day is about the humanitarian workers themselves and the humanitarian cause – The IASC principals agreed to there being three main areas of focus for the commemoration of the Day in 2009:

  1. to honour those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service;
  2. to acknowledge the ongoing work of humanitarian staff around the globe;
  3. to draw attention to humanitarian needs worldwide.

For 2010 and beyond it is anticipated that the Day will be used to focus on particular humanitarian themes.

Key messages

The humanitarian communitys ability to respond rapidly, effectively and predictably to crises, natural or man made, has improved beyond all recognition in the last 20 years. This is due largely to the dedication of the many thousands of aid workers who have devoted their lives to humanitarian work, matching idealism with action, and principles with practice. Their selfless and non-political endeavours are vital for the necessary acceptance by all concerned that assistance to the needy should be provided impartially and neutrally, without reference to religion, gender, or race. This inaugural World Humanitarian Day is in part dedicated to the memory of all those aid workers who have lost their lives while bringing assistance to others, the majority of them from the communities they are trying to help.

Among these dedicated professionals is one of the great humanitarians, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died on this day in 2003 alongside 21 other colleagues in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad. His memory should serve as an inspiration to all of us who carry out humanitarian work today, even as our assistance efforts in many places continue to be limited by increasingly violent frequent and targeted attacks on humanitarian staff.

While much has been achieved, the challenges faced by many millions of people aroundthe world are still formidable, and the need for principled and effective humanitarian action is greater than ever. Humanitarian needs are growing faster than our ability to deal with them. Long-running and intractable conflicts are still exacting an unconscionable toll on civilians. Natural hazards are becoming increasingly severe and frequent. The international humanitarian community is facing new threats generated by the combined effects of global mega-trends: climate change, chronic poverty, the food and financial crises, water and energy scarcity, migration, population growth, urbanisation, pandemics.