Thursday, August 19, 2010

A day to commemorate (and celebrate) aid workers

Today. August 19th, is the second year of what is being called World Humanitarian Day. Who needs another international day you may well ask - there are so many at this stage that we can barely fit them into a full calendar year.

Like others, I was probably a bit cynical, or at least non-committal when WHD was introduced last year (you know it's got legs in the humanitarian world when we give it its very own acronym!). However, this year I have literally bought the tee-shirt and will probably take part in a quiet procession later on this evening in Geneva to remember colleagues who are no longer with us. Why the change of heart - maybe a gradual realization that we have more than enough cynicism in our 'business' and a to set aside one dignified day a year to remember slain colleagues is pretty decent actually when it boils down to it.

For me, unfortunately, this list of murdered colleagues, and colleagues who have died in the line of duty (to borrow a military metaphor) is too long. So today I will be especially thinking of Rita and the Jacaranda that grows in her honor in the DRC. I will be thinking back to my first mission with the ICRC when six colleagues were slain as they slept in Chechnya on 17th December 1996. And, some dear former colleagues will spring to mind from the long list of aid workers whose lives have been cut short as they tried to effect positive change in their homelands in places such as Iraq, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and too many other locations. And, most recently, in Afghanistan, when ten aid workers were mercilessly executed - our Wayfarer-in-Chief, Bob McKerrow, has written a moving and personal account of this recent tragedy in his blog.

As long as WHD remembers those of all nationalities, expatriate or not, it will be worth commemorating. I posted the video here which has been put together for the day. It is especially gratifying to see a video that doesn't glorify 'disaster porn', that doesn't bastardize 'branding porn' and that focuses firmly on the principle of principles that binds us all together - Humanity.



  1. We will remember them. Mac Riding 1973, Vietnam NZRC, Jock Sutherland 1983 Pakistan, NZRC are two of my dear friends, along with hundreds of others who died trying to make an improvement here, a change there.

    A fine posting Paul. We had a very moving ceremony here in Col;ombo yesterday which I will write about soon. Bob

  2. Tank you for the post. Sorry missed the date, but next year will commemorate it for sure.Blessings, and glad your still around!God only knows how many prayers and candles I've used for your safety:)And I don't even have a religion!

  3. PS Pure and clear little video- beautiful. Thank you guys( gals)!

  4. A great tragedy .. The World is Watching