People helping people- a celebration of World Humanitarian Day


Smith- World Humanitarian Day

Photo: Joseph Donnelly, Caritas Internationalis

Today, I had the opportunity to join with UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon, Undersecretary General Valerie Amos, Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake as well as other senior United Nations officials in celebrating World Humanitarian Day at UN Headquarters in New York City.

This is the third year that the United Nations has celebrated this day, marked from the bombing of a UN building in Iraq in 2003, the annual day reminds us to be thankful for work of humanitarian workers today and those who have lost their lives serving others.

The theme for this year’s celebratation was “people helping people.”  In his remarks, Secretary General Ban ki Moon stated simply, “People helping people saves lives.”  The Secretary General’s comments remind us that there are times where people act for humanity, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. 

We look back at the women and men who have died in humanitarian service and remember the sacrifice that they made and the sacrifices their families have made, all in the idea of “people helping people.”

Some key messages quoted from World Humanitarian Day include:

  1. Humanitarian aid workers are from all corners of the world, male and female, and reflect all cultures and backgrounds.  The majority come from the countries in which they work.  Strong, professional and independent local organisations are key actors in all humanitarian responses.
  2. Everyone can be a humanitarian.  People affected by disasters are the first to help their own communities following a disaster.  Communities, local partner organizations, international organizations and the general public can build a chain of solidarity to support communities in responding to and recovering from disasters.
  3. Humanitarian aid is based on a number of founding principles, including humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.  Humanitarian aid workers want to be able to access those in need in order to provide vital assistance.  This wish should be respected. 

It is vital for us to remember that people helping people remains important in an all to unpredictable world.

May God bless all humanitarians, past, present and future in their work.

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