We at Considerate Hoteliers would like to join in solidarity with all aid workers and humanitarians who risk both their lives and time to support those affected by crises around the world. The 19th of August marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD), a United Nations initiative which began in 2009. The focus of this year’s WHD is #NotATarget. Unfortunately, those courageous and compassionate enough to partake in humanitarian work are often directly targeted, treated as threats and thereby prevented from providing the aid which is desperately needed in the areas in which they operate.
The origins of WHD begin with Sérgio Vieira de Mello, whose tragic story highlights exactly why such a day is needed in the public consciousness. While serving as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Iraq in 2003, Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the Canal Hotel bombing, orchestrated by Al-Qaeda with the intention of directly targeting the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq who had used the hotel as their base of operations since the early 1990s.
Vieira de Mello was a humanitarian champion, having worked with the UN Refugee Agency in Bangladesh during the war of independence and in Sudan following the First Sudanese civil war. In his later years he was placed in charge of the UN Refugee Agency’s efforts in Mozambique during the Mozambican Civil War and later Peru, he was also a leader in efforts to clear landmines in Cambodia and Yugoslavia. The world is lesser for the loss of Vieira de Mello, yet unfortunately his story is but one of many – every day the very best of us are targeted precisely because they display the virtues of courage and compassion as Vieira de Mello did.
To ensure his legacy was not lost his family and some of his close friends founded the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation and in turn a resolution was passed through the general assembly which brought about the first World Humanitarian Day in 2009.