UN Humanitarian Chief renews call for protection of aid workers and civilians

UN Humanitarian Chief renews call for protection of aid workers and civilians

Friday, August 17, 2018


In remembrance of humanitarians killed in the line of duty, a ‘living petition’ was launched, calling on world leaders to take action to protect civilians and aid workers.

(New York, 17 August 2018) World Humanitarian Day 2018 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, in which 22 UN staff and other civilians lost their lives. Each year on 19 August, the humanitarian community remembers aid workers who lost their lives in the line of duty and pays tribute to those who deliver aid to vulnerable communities in some of the world’s most dangerous crises.

Last year, 139 aid workers were killed, 102 were wounded and 72 were kidnapped in the line of duty. This marks the fifth consecutive year in which more than 100 humanitarians lost their lives on the job, and it is the highest recorded annual death toll since 2013, when 156 humanitarians were killed.

“It is unconscionable that civilians and the aid workers who are trying to help them are killed and maimed in conflict zones with utter impunity. We need this to end,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

In 2017, of the 42,972 people reportedly killed or injured by explosive weapons, 31,904, or three out of every four victims, were civilians – a 38 per cent increase from 2016. In his recent Protection of Civilians report, the UN Secretary-General noted that more than 26,000 civilians were killed or injured in attacks in just six conflict-affected countries in 2017. Reversing the high numbers of civilian casualties in conflicts will require sustained advocacy. 

Governments and non-State armed groups have clear legal obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, protect aid workers and ensure the safe and unimpeded passage of supplies in armed conflict. “It is imperative that we hold men with guns and power accountable when civilians and aid workers are illegally targeted,” Mr. Lowcock said.

More than 2 million people participated in the #NotATarget campaign last year. Building on that success, the UN and humanitarian partners launched this week a ‘living petition,’ calling on world leaders to take action to protect civilians and aid workers. Global citizens are asked to ‘sign’ the petition with their selfies through a custom website that innovatively transforms their 2D selfies into 3D portraits of solidarity. Citizens’ faces will be displayed on an installation that was unveiled at UN Headquarters today. The installation will remain in place throughout next month’s UN General Assembly, which begins on 18 September.

“The thousands of faces that make up the living petition will be on display to remind world leaders of their legal obligation to protect civilians in conflict,” Mr. Lowcock said.

About World Humanitarian Day

To raise awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and to pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to provide it, the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day.  

For more information, please contact: 

Russell Geekie, OCHA New York, geekie@un.org +1 212 963 8340

Hayat Abu-Saleh, OCHA New York, abusaleh@un.org +1 917 224 9751

Jens Laerke, OCHA Geneva, laerke@un.org +41 79 472 9750



Mr. Russell Geekie

+1 212 963 8340

Mr. Jens Laerke

+41 79 472 9750