Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development Spokesperson (Paris, August 19, 2014)

World Humanitarian Day

Today we celebrate World Humanitarian Day. August 19 is a symbolic date for the international community since it is the date on which, 11 years ago, an attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad killed 22 people.

Eleven years after that attack this issue is unfortunately still very relevant since aid workers are being subjected to a growing number of targeted and deliberate attacks in the countries in which they are trying to save lives.

There have never been so many humanitarian crises in one year – in Iraq for a start, as well as Syria and the neighboring countries hard hit by the influx of refugees, the Palestinian Territories, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, the Great Lakes countries and the Sahel again, the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, the Balkans and Bolivia, which were affected by flooding, and many other countries. More than 51 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict, violence or natural disasters.

France takes action on all these crises, alongside UN agencies, the European Commission and humanitarian organizations, with the support of local and regional authorities and French corporate foundations.

World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for France to pay a special tribute to all aid workers, who, as highlighted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are among the hardest hit by atrocities committed during crises. France pays tribute to their devotion, while they risk their lives to provide assistance in increasingly difficult conditions.

In 2013, 155 aid workers were killed while carrying out their work. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that such acts do not go unpunished and to work to ensure that the areas in which aid workers are present are as safe and stable as possible.

France will continue to strongly advocate for the safety of humanitarian personnel as it has already done so, including within the international forums, and first and foremost at the UN. Together, we have a responsibility – and this day reminds us of that – to mobilize our efforts to support the action of aid workers and to provide assistance to the most vulnerable people.