Saturday, August 18, 2012

World Humanitarian Day: Think Syria

Tomorrow, Sunday, is World Humanitarian Day, a global day to celebrate humanity and the spirit of people helping people.This year it also coincides with Eid al-Fitr.
With so many conflicts around the world, I dedicate this World Humanitarian Day to Syria and the suffering of civilians in that country that has claimed the lives of thousands of men, women and children and has displaced tens of thousands more from their homes.
Disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law has led to a “severe internal displacement crisis in Syria, as the conflict intensifies,” according to the UN Expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons. Chaloka Beyani, expressed deep concern about the situation of the estimated 1.5 million people internally displaced by the ongoing bloodletting in Syria.
It is also a day to remember all the humanitarian organizations and workers on the ground that are trying to help those affected by the Syria revolution. They are mostly volunteers, local and foreign, a number of who have already been killed in Syria.
Communities and organizations across the globe -- from Dubai to Paris, Bangkok to Panama City and Addis Ababa to New York -- will mark World Humanitarian Day through commemorations and public events. 
This Sunday, August 19, let’s rise together and do one thing for another human being. Even a smile can go a long way… Let’s make our mark, and say, “I was here.”
World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to recognize humanitarian personnel and those who lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. It was designated in 2008 by the United Nations General Assembly as part of a Swedish-sponsored GA Resolution A/63/L.49 on the Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Assistance of the United Nations, and set as August 19.
It marks the day on which then Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sérgio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.
Beyoncé, the UN and humanitarian aid organizations have launched a global campaign to shine a spotlight on humanitarian work and encourage people around the world to get involved by doing something good for others.
The World Humanitarian Day music video for Beyoncé’s song “I Was Here” was filmed in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York in front of a live audience. It will be released globally on August 19.
When Beyoncé took the stage, dressed in a skintight sequined white gown, the screens, which spanned from ceiling to floor, lit up with images of different regions around the world struck by disaster while the faces of humanitarian workers flashed. Beyoncé and songwriter Diane Warren are donating the video to the campaign.   
“World Humanitarian Day celebrates humanitarian work,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. “I hope everyone will pledge to complete at least one humanitarian action -- however great or small -- through Together we can create an unprecedented awareness of the plight of people affected by crises around the world.” 
The campaign website provides everyone with an opportunity to unite and share his or her individual acts of good. On August 19, the campaign aims to reach no less than one billion people in a day with a single message. 
“We all see the headlines and we think, what can I really do to help?” said Beyoncé. “World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for all of us to work together to make a difference. This is our time to leave our mark on the world and show that we were here and we care.” 
It takes only five simple steps to support World Humanitarian Day.
1.  Visit
2.  Click on “Show Your Support”. 
3.  Choose to support World Humanitarian Day via Twitter, Facebook or both, and get the word out to your friends and followers.
4.  Continue tweeting and posting in the lead-up to August 19.
5.  On Sunday, August 19, make your mark by doing something in your local community, and watch as everyone’s World Humanitarian Day messages are simultaneously shared around the world. 
In the past decade, more than 700 humanitarian workers perished while providing life-saving assistance to millions around the planet.
Humanitarian action stems from the establishment in the 19th century of codes of conduct during armed conflict. States were determined to create equilibrium between humanitarian preoccupations and States’ military exigencies in the context of modern warfare. Since 1949, the Geneva Conventions at the origins of International Humanitarian Law seek to formally protect people who do not actively participate in conflict but also to restrict war tactics. Sixty years on, the Conventions are almost universally ratified.
A new phenomenon increases the defenselessness of those in need of assistance -- the deliberate targeting of aid workers, forcing the cessation of aid operations in certain regions. “Sadly, since 19 August 2003, there have been numerous other assassinations of individuals and further bombs,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says. “Killing those who are trying to help others is a particularly despicable crime, and one which all governments should join forces to prevent, and -- when prevention fails -- to punish.”
World Humanitarian day honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and pays tribute to those who continue to help people around the world, regardless of who they are and where they are.
Everyday we see and hear images and stories of pain and suffering, but we also find acts of kindness, great and small. World Humanitarian Day is a global celebration of people helping people. What will you do today?