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Brussels, 19 August 2010

"Don't shoot, I'm a humanitarian worker!" – on World Humanitarian Day the European Commission calls for respect for humanitarian principles

On World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, the European Commission  honours humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or freedom, or have been injured during the course of their work. The European Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), has staff permanently present in crisis spots around the world. ECHO works closely with partner relief organisations such as specialised UN agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement and non-governmental organisations. Together they ensure the delivery of relief to civilian populations throughout the world in an impartial and non-discriminatory way. But humanitarian access and the security of relief workers is increasingly at risk.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said: "World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the importance of humanitarian work in saving lives and providing for people in need wherever they may be. Relief workers serve humanity, often in very perilous circumstances. We have seen them extending help to victims of earthquakes, fires and floods.  But it is in conflict zones where their lives are most at risk. There is an alarming trend to target these dedicated people. We must protect the safety of humanitarian workers so they can work wherever they are needed. To do this, I will continue to raise awareness of the worsening security conditions for those who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others.  It is paramount that we understand and respect the core principles of humanitarian aid: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. We must stop the shooting of humanitarian workers -- when they are hurt, so is the hope in the future of our children".

102 humanitarian workers were killed and many more injured in security incidents in 2009, 92 were kidnapped according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The World Humanitarian Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2008 and commemorated for the first time in 2009 "to contribute to increasing public awareness about humanitarian work and the importance of international cooperation, and to commemorate all humanitarian and United Nations and associated personnel who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause, and those who have lost their lives in the course of duty". It is also a reminder of the events of that day in 2003 when the UN office in Iraq was bombed and 22 people killed. The theme of this year's World Humanitarian Day is "We are humanitarian aid workers".

The partnership between the United Nations and the European Commission is a key component of the global humanitarian system. The EU and UN will continue working together to ensure the safety of aid workers and that the humanitarian principles are respected.

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