13 August 2018

Protection of civilians is the focus of this year's World Humanitarian Day (19 August)

13 August 2018 - This 19 August the importance of humanitarian assistance and the United Nations and associated personnel working in the promotion of the humanitarian cause will be remembered on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Day. In 2008, in its resolution 63/139, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as the World Humanitarian Day, in memory of those who perished on 19 August 2003, when a terrorist attack hit the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 22 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq.

Canal Hotel was the headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, which was created less than a week before the attack by the United Nations Security Council. A decade and a half later, the World Humanitarian Day serves not only to remember but also to highlight the critical role of aid workers as well as the need to improve their safety and to ensure that the dignity of people affected by natural, man made or complex emergencies is well preserved.

Moreover, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers an opportunity to enhance collaboration and coordination between humanitarian assistance and development, despite the differences between both. For instance, the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Initiative (HDPI) is a joint effort by the United Nations and the World Bank Group for these institutions to work together in new ways across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence.

The World Humanitarian Day this year with the hashtag #NotATarget is centered once again around the need to increase the protection of civilians since many of them, including children and women as well as humanitarian and medical workers are directly targeted and threatened by parties in armed conflict in many parts of the world. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which is one of the core instruments of International Humanitarian Law, provides a comprehensive set of rules regarding protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Furthermore, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court determines a list of crimes considered as "war crimes", including "Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance..." (article 8, 2., b, iii). A recent resolution (72/131) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly last year, strongly condemned "the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel" as well as "all acts of violence, attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel".

To know more about the ongoing humanitarian activities carried out by the United Nations and to know in particular more about the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies, you can visit this website: https://www.unocha.org/