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Honour Humanitarian Workers by Re-committing to Their Safety, Keeping Hope Alive, Secretary-General Urges on Anniversary of United Nations Headquarters Bombing

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SG/SM/20859
19 AUGUST 2021

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the wreath-laying ceremony for the observance of the eighteenth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, in New York today:

This memorial reminds us why 19 August was chosen as World Humanitarian Day. On this date 18 years ago, the world lost 22 humanitarian heroes in a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad.

These women and men were killed carrying out the noblest of all human missions — the mission of peace. The mission of supporting innocent lives trapped by the violence, turmoil and instability of violent conflicts.

Humanitarian work is dangerous — with a tenfold increase in aid workers being shot, kidnapped or attacked over the last 20 years. This year alone, 72 have lost their lives.

Despite the risks, you can find aid workers from the United Nations and our humanitarian partners putting their lives on the line to deliver food, shelter and clean water. Medicine and vaccines. Protection, counselling and education.

You can find them in Afghanistan, supporting Afghans as they enter a perilous new chapter in their country’s history. You can find them in Haiti, which suffered a devastating earthquake last week.

From Yemen and Syria to Ethiopia, South Sudan and beyond, humanitarian workers are staying and delivering.

They have no political agenda. They do not take sides. They are motivated only by the safety, human rights, dignity and well-being of the people trapped by these emergencies.

On this day and every day, I have one clear message to humanitarians everywhere: Thank you. You deserve our deepest gratitude, admiration and appreciation, always.

As a global community, let’s honour humanitarians by re-committing to their safety and protection, no matter where they work. And let’s keep alive the flame of peace and hope in humanity that they hold in their hearts as they carry out their mission of peace in the most dangerous places on Earth.

And I would like to ask all of you to join me in a moment of silence in memory of our heroes that have fallen in Baghdad and in so many other parts of the world

For information media. Not an official record.