Yesterday we heard from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navinathem Pillay, celebrating the first-ever World Humanitarian Day and marking the six-year anniversary of the Baghdad bombing that cost 22 UN staff members their lives. Today, the son of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the accomplished diplomat who was the UN’s Special Representative in Iraq at the time, pens a moving op-ed in The Washington Post. The focus is on ensuring that what happened to his father does not happen to more of the thousands of humanitarian workers braving dangerous enviornments in the world today.
It is high time for the international community to face its responsibilities and stop hiding behind humanitarian action. The world must stop using humanitarian efforts as a fig leaf. It can no longer avoid action while putting its conscience at rest by sending humanitarian actors into the killing fields. There are lives at risk.
And on this day, because of their courage, dedication, generosity and humility, humanitarian workers deserve our respect. We should not only praise their work but also remind the world that we must protect them, that we must impress on warlords that if they have any humanity left, they should protect and assist these workers. We must remind the world that humanitarian workers are neutral and help those in need, whatever their color, race, religion or political beliefs. They deserve our efforts and our thanks.
We’ve made it a habit to thank UN peacekeepers for the hard work that they do; take a moment to appreciate the risks that humanitarian workers take to bring concrete benefits to the lives of others.