Every year on 19 August, World Humanitarian Day (WHD) brings the world together to rally support for people affected by humanitarian crisis and pay tribute to aid workers who help them. This WHD, we will come together to reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget, and to demand global action to protect them.
Around the world, conflict is exacting a massive toll on people’s lives. They are increasingly trapped in conflicts that are not of their own making but the world is not doing enough to put a stop to their suffering. In war zones, children must hide from bombing beneath their beds, rather than learning at their desks. Families are forced to flee their towns, rather than build their homes, livelihoods and communities.
At the same time, health and aid workers, who care for people affected by violence, are increasingly being targeted. Medicine and relief supplies are looted, hospitals and ambulances are bombed, and humanitarian aid workers are detained or denied access to people in desperate need. This is unacceptable.
Wars have rules. States and armed groups have clear and long-established international legal responsibilities in conflict, including to protect civilians from harm, to spare schools and hospitals, and to ensure the safe passage of aid workers.
But every time these rules are broken, human suffering intensifies. Every time these lines are crossed, humanitarian needs grow. And our global capacity and resources to respond to these crises are increasingly overstretched. People must be put first.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has published his first report on the Protection of Civilians. Laying out his ‘path to protection’, the Secretary-General calls for enhanced respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, and protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical workers, as well as civilian infrastructure. He also calls for the prevention of forced displacement, and durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons.
Action is being taken: global leaders made commitments to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity at the World Humanitarian Summit last year. Since then new initiatives on the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, enabling humanitarian and medical missions, and speaking out against violations have been reported around the world. However, much more must be done.