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UN seeks commitment on Humanitarian Day

Aug 20, 2013

Amidst increasing humanitarian needs and challenging situations under which humanitarian workers operate in Afghanistan, a top United Nations official in the country said today that commitment of all is required to ensure smooth humanitarian aid efforts.

Marking World Humanitarian Day, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, said that it is "particularly important" that the Day is commemorated in Afghanistan where humanitarian workers continue to work in “an unsafe and difficult environment.”

“We require the commitment of all to ensure that humanitarian principles are upheld, that there is free access for all humanitarian endeavours and we should honour the commitment of those that have selflessly sought to maintain humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Bowden.

In December 2008, the UN General Assembly decided to designate 19 August as World Humanitarian Day to honour those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service, and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions around the world.

Afghanistan is one of the countries where humanitarian work is increasingly becoming a challenge. Highlighting this challenge in his latest report on Afghanistan to the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said the UN, its implementing partners and other humanitarian entities faced “a variety of threats.”

On 15 April, small arms fire struck a UN helicopter flying over Ghazni province in the country’s south-east. On 24 May, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a complex assault on a compound of the International Organization for Migration, a UN-affiliated agency, in central Kabul, resulting in a number of casualties. Five days later, the premises of the International Committee of the Red Cross in eastern Jalalabad city were subjected to a suicide attack, killing one civilian and injuring two others.

“Recent attacks on humanitarian organizations are also of great concern,” noted Mr. Ban, in his report to the Council. “A more brutal phase of the conflict, focused on civilians, will only entrench and deepen animosities and cycles of violence.”

The UN in Afghanistan suffered its worst attack ever on 1 April 2011 when a mob stormed a UN compound in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing seven people.

In his message for the Day, Secretary-General Ban has highlighted the spirit of teamwork urging people and countries to work together to achieve peace, justice, dignity and development.

“That is the humanitarian spirit. That is the humanitarian imperative of the United Nations,” said Mr. Ban, while paying tribute to the sacrifices of humanitarian workers around the world.

This year’s commemoration marks the 10th anniversary of the attack on the UN headquarters in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, that led to the deaths of UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other people. That tragedy was among the inspirations for this Day.

“Sergio was a vocal advocate of the values and mission of the United Nations. He touched the lives of all who met him, and helped millions of poor and vulnerable people in a life of service on several continents,” Mr. Ban said in his message. “His death was a great loss to the United Nations, but his legacy has motivated many people to pursue humanitarian work.”

Mr. Viera de Mello was remembered in a special ceremony in the Bamyan office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) with a minute of silence and a speech by the head of office, Elizabeth Sancery, who had served with the UN official in an earlier posting.






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