Secretary of State
On this day we honor humanitarians, both those who have lost their lives in their efforts to aid and protect the most vulnerable people on earth, and those who continue to brave violence and hardship. The theme of this year’s commemoration is “One Humanity.” It asks all of us to stand together, to recognize our shared responsibility to help those overtaken by calamity.
More people have now been driven from their homes than at any time in history, and most have been scattered by conflicts. In many of these conflicts, combatants flout even the most fundamental rules of human decency and international humanitarian law by targeting civilians and interfering with aid operations. They have killed children, raped and enslaved women, besieged and starved cities, kidnapped and killed humanitarian workers, and blocked and looted aid convoys.
Governments, donors, and aid organizations, as well as ordinary citizens are working together to find solutions. This past spring, humanitarian leaders gathered for the first World Humanitarian Summit and committed to do more to coordinate humanitarian and development aid, help local first responders, protect women and girls, and stop governments and combatants from violating international humanitarian law.
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York next month, President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees to raise more money for UN humanitarian appeals and international organizations, double the number of refugees who benefit from temporary admission or permanent resettlement programs, and give more refugee children the chance to attend school and more refugee adults the legal right to work so they can be self-reliant and contributing members of the communities that shelter them.
Humanitarian workers understand that what we share is far greater than what divides us. They aid those in trouble regardless of their nationality, political affiliation, religion, sex, or race. They go into the bleakest, most dangerous places on earth and risk their lives for strangers. They feed, clothe, heal, and defend the dignity of those in need. They answer cynicism and savagery with compassion.
On this World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to all humanitarians, we draw inspiration from their countless acts of heroism, and we thank them for being the emissaries of the conscience of the world.