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Memorial Ceremony at OHCHR in remembrance of those killed in the service of human rights

The high commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made a statement on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day on August 19, recalling all the people who worked for the United Nations and have lost their lives in the service of human rights. She commemorated 22 colleagues who were killed in the terrorist attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on the 19th of August 2003, including the diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. She also commemorated the 5 human rights officers killed in an attack in Rwanda in 2011, two colleagues died in the earthquake in Hait in 2010i, and two others killed in separate attacks in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2015. Bachelet also addressed that many other United Nations personnel have been killed in the course of their work and countless human rights defenders have lost their lives in the service of human rights.

This year's theme for World Humanitarian Day highlights the immediate human cost of the climate crisis by pressuring world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinates the intervention of UN agencies during humanitarian crises. These agencies include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the UN figures, in the course of 2020, 475 people of humanitarian personnel were the subject of attacks, of whom 108 were killed, 242 were wounded, and 125 were kidnapped. Attacks against aid workers in Tigray of Ethiopia rose during 2020 and has been worsening further in 2021. Most of the violence took place in South Sudan, Syria, and DRC. Other high incident contexts included the Central African Republic and Mali, where incidents have more than doubled since 2018. 

The World Humanitarian Day, falls annually on August 19 and was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 in response to the 2003 terrorist attack in Baghdad. The aim is to promote the safety of people engaged in humanitarian aid activities and of populations in need of such aid.