Every year on August 19, World Humanitarian Day is an occasion to honour the dedication and bravery of humanitarian workers who day after day put their lives on the line to save the lives of others.
World Humanitarian Day marks the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, when 22 humanitarian workers were killed. Ever since, the date is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives, but also to strengthen the global understanding of and respect for International Humanitarian Law.
In today's protracted conflicts marked by increasing violations of humanitarian principles, insecurity often prevents the delivery of aid where help is most needed.
More than 4 000 humanitarian workers have been victims of major attacks over the past two decades. In 2016 alone, 159 major attacks were perpetrated against aid operations, affecting 268 humanitarian workers in 21 countries. Every month in 2016, on average more than six humanitarian workers were kidnapped; more than seven were killed; and more than eight were wounded. Almost three times as many aid workers were kidnapped in 2016 as in 1997, while more than twice as many were killed. These alarming trends are highlighted in the Aid Worker Security Database, dedicated to recording major incidents of violence against aid workers.
The World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to inform as many people as possible about the life-saving work of humanitarians, and the dangers they face every day. It is a day when people all around the world can engage in creating a more humane world.
For its part, the European Union is firmly committed to promoting global respect for and compliance with International Humanitarian Law, and the principles that guide humanitarian action – humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
The EU contributes to the global respect for and compliance with IHL through advocacy and political, diplomatic and communication measures. Examples of activities for the dissemination and implementation of IHL supported by the European Commission:
- Funding of partners' IHL advocacy activities (e.g. in Palestine) or does own IHL advocacy in certain conflicts (e.g. Syria and Colombia).
- Funding of IHL dissemination targeting a wide range of stakeholders, including military/security forces and armed non-state actors in key conflict-affected countries (e.g. Iraq, Colombia, Ukraine and Afghanistan).
- Funding of activities aimed at increasing the capacities of humanitarian workers in advocating for IHL.
- Awareness-raising among partners worldwide about some of the unintended consequences of new counter-terrorism legislation and policies, which may limit humanitarian action and IHL training.
- Funding and implementation of large-scale information campaigns, such as the annual World Humanitarian Day campaign, to raise awareness.
For further information please read our International Humanitarian Law factsheet.
For 2017, the EU has produced an outdoor poster campaign running for two weeks in seven major EU cities in five countries: Croatia (Zagreb), Spain (Barcelona), Italy (Rome), Hungary (Budapest), and Greece (Athens, Heraklion and Rhodes). The campaign consists of a series of three posters raising awareness of the plight of aid workers killed, kidnapped and wounded worldwide, and calling for more respect for them.