STATEMENT By EUROPEAN COMMISSION on World Humanitarian Day The European Union supports humanitarian action

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The European Union is committed to protecting humanitarian workers and - every year - supports the World Humanitarian Day. 19 August marks the day in 2003 when 22 humanitarians died in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. It is a day to honour the brave men and women who risk their lives while they provide help to people who suffer and to draw attention to the increasing dangers faced by humanitarian workers.

An Alarming Trend

In 2014, 329 aid workers were victims of violent attacks, more than one third of whom were killed. Attacks against humanitarian personnel are a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The law is binding on all state and non-state actors in a conflict. It sets out their responsibilities regarding the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers, the protection of vulnerable groups such as refugees, women and children and the right of civilians in need of humanitarian assistance.

The European Union vigorously promotes respect of IHL through advocacy and humanitarian funding to ensure humanitarian access. The EU also finances training in IHL to civilian and military personnel engaged in EU crisis management operations.

Europe’s Humanitarian Record

Europe has a long and proud tradition of humanitarian service. It is the birthplace of many of the world’s prominent relief organisations. The European Union as a whole has provided humanitarian aid for more than 40 years and is, together with its Member States, today the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid. European solidarity has the overwhelming support of the citizens: nine out of ten Europeans say that it is important that the EU funds humanitarian aid according to the most recent Eurobarometer survey.

A Historic Opportunity

On 23 and 24 May 2016, the humanitarian community will meet in Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. It is a historic opportunity to find ways to better tackle humanitarian needs in a fast-changing world. It will be the occasion to increase effectiveness of humanitarian work and to better manage risks for humanitarian workers. It is also an occasion to reaffirm the European Union’s commitment to alleviate human suffering and to stand with the people affected by conflicts and crises across the world. As the world’s leading humanitarian donor, the EU has a decisive role to play.