World Humanitarian Day
When is World Humanitarian Day?
World Humanitarian Day is observed annually on August 19th. Established by the General Assembly of the United Nations, this holiday is designed to celebrate the humanitarian efforts of citizens around the world – both past and present. It is also a time to encourage humanitarianism in future generations to help increase the likelihood of peace between nations.
At its core, humanitarianism operates on empathy and kindness, as well as an inherent need to help others. While many humanitarians work secretly on their own, there are numerous groups and organizations that operate with multiple individuals striving for the same mission. Humanitarians have been historically responsible for conquering racism, sexism, oppression and hunger, as well as prejudices based on religion and ethnicity. The scope of the work varies, and many humanitarians risk their lives to help others – this is especially the case in war-torn regions. World Humanitarian Day aims to celebrate all of the individuals that make sacrifices on behalf of the greater good.
The concept of humanitarianism isn’t anything new, but World Humanitarian Day itself is a relatively new holiday. It was created in 2008 to coincide with one of humanitarianism’s most tragic dates. On August 19, 2003, a terrorist bombing at the Canal Hotel killed 22 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the U.N. Located in Baghdad, the Canal Hotel was also the United Nations headquarters in Iraq.
August 19, 2009 was the first official World Humanitarian Day. The General Assembly voted on the holiday in 2008 to celebrate all humanitarian volunteers and workers. While the date coincides with the Canal Hotel tragedy, the holiday really belongs to every single person who works at making a difference in the lives of others throughout the world. In fact, there is no designated logo for World Humanitarian Day because the United Nations hasn’t necessarily laid claim to it.
Celebrations & Observance
World Humanitarian Day is primarily a day of global observance. It is not a public holiday, so businesses and agencies aren’t expected to close on this day. However, some companies and organizations opt to celebrate the holiday by starting their own humanitarian causes.
Some humanitarian organizations take special pride in this holiday and participate in events that lead to increased public awareness of key issues affecting humanity. While many industrialized nations have come a long way in many aspects of humanitarianism, other countries significantly lag behind. Without educating the public about the undesirable circumstances of others, it’s hard to rally up support to help those in need. The need for humanitarian aid is stronger than ever as communities around the world are being flooded with refugees who seek better lives for their families.
To increase support for World Humanitarian Day, the United Nations has enacted annual themes. Past themes include “I Was Here”, which emphasized doing good deeds for others outside of your own space, whether it be a different home, city or country.