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International Days

World Humanitarian Day – 19 August

The World Humanitarian Day has gained considerable attention – in complete contrast to the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (see comment from 10 August). Not only did the media mention the day beforehand, e.g. The Muslim News (17 August), Alertnet (17 August) and First Post (18 August), but a song sung by Beyoncé was also dedicated to the day: “I was here“ aims to encourage people to perform a ‘good deed‘. The UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon supported Beyoncé in his videoclip. Many celebrities joined in and encouraged humanitarian engagement (Welt online, 19 August). On the website of this year’s World Humanitarian Day people were asked to talk about their ‘good deed’ of the day so that the world can see how many people actually help(ed) people in need.

The World Humanitarian Day offers a good opportunity to encourage people to more voluntary engagement, to shake them into action and to make them aware of social drawbacks. Often we do not realise social drawbacks anymore since there are already activities in place which support affected people. Volunteers who work behind the scenes are often forgotten and, therefore, it is good to have at least one day of the year dedicated to them! But it also shows that it is not difficult to celebrate this day and to make people aware of it since it does not hold a lot of potential for conflicts. People barely disagree with voluntary engagement for starving people or for the elderly. However, people rarely mention the political dimension of aid, although a political motivated act in 2003 was the reason to declare 19 August World Humanitarian Day (see comment and background information on OUPblog).

Only sometimes people talk about the actual reasons why people are in need nowadays (unless the reason is obvious, such as conflict or war, see for instance Mich Café Blog). The World Humanitarian Day is not one of these controversial international days: one can easily only focus on the social dimension. According to Random House Dictionary, “humanitarian” means that one wants to support and enhance the people’s welfare and happiness. This engagement can affect anyone and that is another reason why it is easy to make people aware of the day – we do not focus on a specific group, neither women nor minorities nor indigenous peoples. This broad diversification allows us to focus on those aspects which can be illustrated and represented in our own countries. Let me add another aspect: The World Humanitarian Day offers the possibility to pay tribute to already existing initiatives. Social drawbacks, which had been present before, are no longer existing – as a result, the country’s situation has improved.

The World Humanitarian Day is a day which already attracts a lot of attention – and it deserves it! However, this day should be also used to exert pressure on politics and economy in order to create a world in which we can live peacefully and happy.




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