World Humanitarian Day - 19th August 2023



 By Tamir Boldbaatar and Manlaibayar Baatarzorig / GICJ

Honouring Unsung Heroes and Promoting Compassion

During times of crisis and hardship, when hope seems distant and lives hang in the balance, there are those who rise above the chaos to offer a helping hand—the unsung heroes of humanitarian aid workers.

Since 2003, 6,479 aid workers have been injured, killed, or taken captive while selflessly delivering assistance to those in need [1].

On the 19th of August, the world comes together to celebrate World Humanitarian Day, shining a light on the hundreds of thousands of volunteers, professionals, and individuals affected by crises who provide urgent healthcare, shelter, food, water, protection, and much more.



World Humanitarian Day  honours humanitarian aid workers all over the world. This day commemorates the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello[2]. Five years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. The day pays tribute to the thousands of humanitarian workers who gave their lives and suffered injuries in the course of their work. It is a day to remind us of the efforts of aid workers who put their lives on the line to help people affected  by global crises. 


Sérgio Vieira De Mello Foundation

Sérgio Vieira De Mello was born and raised in Brazil and worked day and night for three decades to aid victims of armed conflict by bringing them relief and ensuring their plight was heard globally. He also worked tirelessly to assemble the draft for the appointment of World Humanitarian Day. Creating awareness was an essential aspect of Sérgio’s campaign, trying his best to ensure that those residing in First World countries and areas without conflict would gain a different perspective on war-torn areas, to show that there is more to it than just political conflict and the death of combatants. Sérgio tried to bring a more humanitarian approach to our understanding of war, focusing on the innocent human lives who struggled to survive and were caught in conflicts they had no desire to be a part of. 

After his death, the Sérgio Vieira De Mello Foundation and de Mello’s family worked closely with the Ambassadors of France, Switzerland, Japan, and Brazil at both the Geneva and New York tables, steering the draft to dedicate a special day through the General Assembly. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly officially initiated the first World Humanitarian Day. It honours the brave relief workers like Sérgio who selflessly serve to make the world a better place for the underprivileged and those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by war. 



Over the past two decades, humanitarian work has seen a remarkable expansion, with efforts aimed at assisting nearly 250 million people—a staggering tenfold increase since 2003. As the scope of humanitarian endeavours has grown, so have the difficulties faced by aid organisations [4].

From increasing geopolitical tensions to blatant disregard for international humanitarian law, and from deliberate attacks to misinformation campaigns, the task of delivering aid has become more complex and dangerous.

One of the most pressing challenges for humanitarian aid workers is the frequent overlap of killings, forced displacement, and limited humanitarian access. Ongoing conflicts in war-torn regions severely impede the ability of aid organisations to reach vulnerable populations, exacerbating the suffering of those in need. Moreover, the tragic loss of humanitarian workers creates an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, further obstructing the delivery of vital assistance to affected communities.


World Humanitarian Day Theme

Each year, the United Nations observes World Humanitarian Day with a theme. The theme brings together all the people from across the humanitarian ecosystem to improve and raise awareness for the survival, well-being, and dignity of people affected by crises and for the safety of humanitarian workers.

The 2023 theme is ‘It takes a village’. With record-high humanitarian needs around the world, this year’s World Humanitarian Day builds on this metaphor of collective endeavour to grow global appreciation of humanitarian work.


Geneva International Centre of Justice (GICJ)

As we pay tribute to World Humanitarian Day, Geneva International Centre of Justice extends heartfelt gratitude to the unsung heroes—the humanitarian aid workers—who tirelessly lend a helping hand during times of crisis and adversity. These brave individuals have provided life-saving assistance to millions worldwide, offering critical healthcare, shelter, sustenance, protection, and more to those in dire need. Faced with growing challenges, including geopolitical tensions and limited access to affected populations, these humanitarian aid workers persist in putting their lives on the line to rescue others.

GICJ earnestly urges individuals, organisations, and governments to implement humanitarian values and actions, to make a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals and to forge a world that is both fair and compassionate. Let us stand united in unwavering support of these unsung heroes, ensuring that no one is abandoned during times of crisis and despair.

 World Humanitarian Day,  Humanitarian Affairs, Human Rights, Geneva,  geneva4justice, GICJ,  GenevaInternationalCentreForJustice






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