Acknowledging World Humanitarian Day
For the third year running, I attended a touching and poignant event that takes place in London: the Memorial Event for Humanitarian Aid Workers. Every year, this event is held on August 18 – the eve of World Humanitarian Day (WHD).
These are precious opportunities for all of us to celebrate the humanitarian spirit and share a moment of reflection and gratitude at a time when it feels more than ever we need to all work harder to break the epidemic of violence faced by aid workers and communities in need of their support.
On 19 August 2003, a terrorist attack on the UN Headquarters in Bagdad, Iraq claimed the lives of 22 aid workers and UN staff. This day has been designated since then to recognize, honor and celebrate the men and women, local, national and international staff who have dedicated their career to alleviate suffering and support the populations and communities affected by crisis across the globe.
Since 1997, almost 4,000 humanitarian aid workers have been victims of major attacks. Over one third of them were killed. In 2015, 287 aid workers were victims of major attacks: 109 killed, 110 wounded, and 68 kidnapped.
Despite these horrifying statistics, the commitment and dedication of humanitarian staff is as strong as ever. When I asked my colleagues what inspires them to work in the sector, I was both energized and humbled to read about their unwavering commitment to fight against the odds, contribute to transforming lives, alleviating suffering ,and to continue to take on these challenges simply because they can, they must, they care.
We have collected some of these stories of humanitarian inspiration in our DisasterReady Connect Community. Take a moment to read these short accounts from humanitarians around the world and share your own inspiration.
How do we help?
I feel strongly that we all have a duty to care, support and advocate for a safer aid system and equip and develop aid workers so they can operate as safely as possible.
The WHD celebrates the fundamental humanitarian spirit of people helping others. At the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, our mission is focused on helping people who help people. The synergy feels…“natural”. And this is why our energy goes towards building capacity and skills, and facilitating peer social learning to help keep staff (all staff!) safe through our DisasterReady platform.
It is also important to think about the systems, resources and standards in place to support this. As the sector has become more professional, the innovation, drive and can-do attitude that has characterised it for so long can sometimes seem diminished. At a time of growing needs and greater operational complexity, it is more crucial than ever to foster the belief that "everything is possible" when communities are in need whilst ensuring we - as individuals and organisations - behave and operate within agreed standards and systems to ensure quality and effectiveness, as well as safety and security.
Whether it is a career decision, a calling or a mix of both, our sector attracts an ever-growing number of selfless, committed, and hard-working individuals. Many of them come from affected communities and will remain in "the field" - because it also happens to be their home. Having had the privilege to engage with many of them throughout my career, and reading their testimonials in our DisasterReady community reminds me of the importance of inspiring and courageous leadership, of contextualized and consistent capacity building, and of taking duty of care seriously.
This is how we can achieve the humanitarian objectives whilst valuing the individuals working hard to make humanitarian ideals a reality.
None of this is optional. As a friend of mine who attended the memorial with me remarked, “There is no alternative but to do something.”
Join us in making sure we do something!
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