World Humanitarian Day is held every year on 19 August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. World Humanitarian Day is celebrated each year on August 19th. The United Nations has an Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.
Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life, whereby humans practice benevolent treatment and provide assistance to other humans, in order to improve the conditions of humanity for moral, altruistic and logical reasons.
Humanitarianism might be summarised as Help Ever, Hurt never, Love All, Serve All.
World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 August 2009. Subsequent years have focused on a particular theme. In 2010, the focus was on the actual work and achievements of humanitarian workers in the field, with the theme, “We are Humanitarian Workers.” The 2011 campaign, “People Helping People” was about inspiring the spirit of aid work in everyone. The 2012 campaign, “I Was Here” was about making your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else. The campaign had a social reach of more than 1 billion people around the world. It was supported by the American singer Beyoncé, whose music video for the song “I Was Here” has been viewed more than 50 million times.
Humanitarianism is today primarily understood as voluntary emergency aid in a transnational context, but it overlaps with human rights advocacy, actions taken by governments, development assistance, and domestic philanthropy.
Other critical issues include
- the correlation with religious beliefs (the brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God);
- the motivation of aid between the poles of altruism and social control (aid should be given without attachment to the results);
- market affinity (partnership between a company (supplier) and an organization that gathers persons sharing the same interests to bring a greater consumer base to their service, aid, and humanitarian relief);
- imperialism and neo-colonialism; (aid should not create dependency nor be conditional upon being “rescued” or overtaken by another sovereign nation)
- gender and class relations; (aid should not be dependent on maintaining gender roles nor suppression of any roles in society)
- and the types of humanitarian agencies and endeavours that characterise different epochs. (aid should not be limited to the kinds of aid nor the agencies that have delivered aid in the past nor their aid policies and practices)
A practitioner is known as a humanitarian.
Humanitarianism is an informal ideology of practice; it is “the doctrine that people’s duty is to promote human welfare.”
An Ideology of Humanitarianism
Humanitarianism is based on a view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated as such. Therefore, humanitarians work towards advancing the well-being of humanity as a whole. It is the antithesis of the “us vs. them” mentality that characterizes tribalism and ethnic nationalism. Humanitarians abhor slavery, violation of basic and human rights, and discrimination on the basis of features such as skin colour, religion, ancestry, or place of birth. Humanitarianism drives people to save lives, alleviate suffering, and promote human dignity in the middle of man-made or natural disasters. Humanitarianism is embraced by movements and people across the political spectrum.
The informal ideology can be summed up by a quote from Albert Schweitzer:
“Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose.”
Humanitarianism and Emergency Response
Today, humanitarianism is particularly used to describe the thinking and doctrines behind the emergency response to humanitarian crises. In such cases it argues for a humanitarian response based on humanitarian principles, particularly the principle of humanity. Nicholas de Torrente, Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) – USA writes:
“The most important principles of humanitarian action are humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality, which posits the conviction that all people have equal dignity by virtue of their being human based solely on need, without discrimination among recipients. Humanitarian organizations must refrain from taking part in hostilities or taking actions that advantage one side of the conflict over another, the action serves the interests of political, religious, or other agendas.
“These fundamental principles serve two essential purposes. They embody humanitarian action’s single-minded purpose of alleviating suffering, unconditionally and without any ulterior motive. They also serve as background document to develop operational tools that help in obtaining both the consent of communities for the presence and activities of humanitarian organizations, particularly in highly volatile contexts.
Character, virtue, charity are the real riches
Today, science has overwhelmed the world. The power of the atom has overshadowed the entire world. Marvels unseen, unheard and unknown to man in previous centuries are astounding mankind one after the other. But, contemporaneously with them, fanaticism based on the language one speaks, the region in which one is born and narrow loyalties to social and economic isms are spreading fast. Imagine! In the 5000 years of human history, fifteen thousand wars have soaked its pages in blood. That is the measure of the brutality inherent in man.
You can read about World Humanitarian Day here.
You can read about the work of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid here.
You can read about the UN Foundation here.