World Humanitarian Day 2014

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

Today is World Humanitarian Day, a day to commemorate all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world.

On this day, the figures in the report Aid Worker Security Report 2014 by Humanitarian Outcomes make sobering reading. Briefly, here is the summary of its key findings:-

  • The year 2013 set a new record for violence against civilian aid operations, with 251 separate attacks affecting 460 aid workers.
  • Of the 460 victims, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded, and 134 were kidnapped. Overall this represents a 66 per cent increase in the number of victims from 2012.
  • The spike in attacks in 2013 was driven mainly by escalating conflicts and deterioration of governance in Syria and South Sudan. These two countries along with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan together accounted for three quarters of all attacks.
  • The majority of aid worker victims were staffers of national NGOs and Red Cross/Crescent societies, often working to implement international aid in their own countries.
  • Year after year, more aid workers are attacked while traveling on the road than in any other setting. In 2013, over half of all violent incidents occurred in the context of
    an ambush or roadside attack.
  • The advances in humanitarian security management have failed to effectively address this most prevalent form of targeting. While some good practice exists in protective and deterrent approaches to road security, more collective thinking and action is required, particularly in developing ‘kinetic acceptance’ strategies for negotiating safe access in transit.

The organisation Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection has posted thought-provoking video in which their members reflect on their work, their changing environment and the challenges that they face in their daily life.

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