On World Humanitarian Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid thanks to all those who help those in need and urged support for the day’s #TheHumanRace campaign, which aims to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from climate change.
Humanitarian workers are here to help the world’s most vulnerable people when disaster strikes, according to the Secretary-General, but relief workers face increasing risks around the world. Shootings, kidnappings, and other attacks on humanitarian organizations have increased tenfold in the last 20 years. At least 72 humanitarian workers have been slain in conflict zones this year alone.
#TheHumanRace, this year’s World Humanitarian Day campaign, highlights how climate extremes are wreaking havoc around the world and overwhelming frontline responders.
Mr Guterres warned that the climate emergency is a “race we are losing. a race we can and must win.”
Participants are requested to clock 100 minutes of exercise for the World Humanitarian Day initiative, which is hosted on the exercise platform Strava.
The UN system observed the day solemnly around the world, with words of solidarity for the families of relief workers who were injured or murdered while assisting others.
UN Geneva Director-General Tatiana Valovaya and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet lay a wreath in remembrance of the fallen in Switzerland, against the backdrop of a UN flag nearly obliterated by the 2003 suicide bombing of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which killed 22 UN workers.
Ms Valovaya expressed concern about the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan, where more than 18 million people require immediate assistance but assured that aid workers will “remain faithful to their mission of providing vital services to affected communities”.
Ms Bachelet praised all those who had died in the service of human rights for their “courage and commitment,” stating that “our work breaks down hatred and violence. We are creating better, more resourceful societies – where fewer tragedies occur – but when they do, we equip people to surmount them.”
The UN migration agency (IOM) cited the global experience of severe temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, and storms as evidence that climate change is the “defining issue of our times.”
IOM Director-General Antonio Vitorino, speaking on World Humanitarian Day 2021, encouraged the international community to focus on the most vulnerable groups most affected by climate change – and the numerous “climate migrants” who will be forced to flee their homes.
With the COVID-19 pandemic adding to the demands on humanitarian aid delivery, the IOM chief highlighted how frontline workers were strained even farther than previously.
He urged governments, the private sector, and concerned citizens to help scale up emergency preparedness and resilience building, as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation, saying, “The climate emergency is a race against time”.