World Humanitarian Day is commemorated for the first time tomorrow on August 19 th, with at least 69 humanitarian aid workers killed so far this year. The day aims to honour humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or been injured in the course of their work. The European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), has staff permanently present in crisis spots around the world. ECHO works closely with partner relief organisations like specialised UN agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement and non-governmental organisations. Together they ensure the delivery of relief to civilian populations throughout the world in an impartial and non-discriminatory way. But humanitarian access and the security of relief workers is increasingly at risk.
Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to honour the fallen humanitarian heroes - those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service. It is also a chance to acknowledge the vital work of our humanitarian staff in often harsh conditions and to draw attention to the urgent humanitarian needs worldwide, whether in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sudan or one of the many other crisis zones."
He added: "My message is simple: Don't harm civilians and the humanitarian aid workers who try to help them. The principles and values of humanitarian aid – humanity, independence, neutrality and impartiality – should protect relief workers and enable them to operate freely to tackle suffering around the world."
European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid
In 2007, the European Parliament, EU Member States and the Commission adopted the Consensus to defend the principles of humanitarian intervention and the rights of the victims. It focuses on ways of enabling humanitarian professionals to carry out their work, assisting millions of people around the world who rely on European solidarity in times of need. It also highlights the importance of protecting the humanitarian space.
The World Humanitarian Day was also established to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide. The General Assembly of the United Nations chose 19 August as a reminder of the events of that day in 2003 when the UN office in Iraq was bombed and 22 persons killed.
The partnership between the United Nations and the European Commission is a key component of the global humanitarian system. The EU and UN will continue working together to ensure the humanitarian space is respected.
The European Commission's humanitarian department (ECHO) maintains regional offices in six capitals around the world (Senegal, Nairobi, Jordan, India, Bangkok, Managua) and employs around 200 local staff and approximately 100 foreign technical experts.
The European Commission is one of the biggest sources of humanitarian aid in the world. In 2008, it provided almost 1 billion euros (€937 M) in humanitarian programmes in more than 70 countries.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm