Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Christos Stylianides on World Humanitarian Day 2016

BRUSSELS, 19 August 2016 – World Humanitarian Day marks the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, when 22 humanitarian workers lost their lives, including the UN Special Representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

HRVP Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Christos Stylianides, made the following statement:

The tragic images of children from Aleppo in Syria sadly show all too clearly the real human suffering of millions of people around the world caught up in humanitarian crises.

As the European Union, just yesterday we reiterated the urgent need for all parties to the conflict to restore the cessation of hostilities, ensure the lifting of all sieges and allow sustained, countrywide humanitarian access to those in need in Syria.

We are in close contact with UN Special Representative Staffan de Mistura to support the efforts to allow humanitarian organisations to provide lifesaving aid and bring a political solution to the conflict.

And today, on World Humanitarian Day, we pay special tribute to and honour all humanitarian workers around the globe who are working to help people in need.

We honour the memory of all those who have sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others. We honour all those who risk their lives while bringing assistance to victims of wars and natural disasters worldwide.

Nearly 4000 humanitarian workers have become victims of major attacks since records began in 1997. Tragically, over one third of them were killed, paying the ultimate price to serve humanity.

We must not forget their sacrifice. We must strengthen our understanding of and respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. We reaffirm our commitment to defend IHL and these principles which should be the shield of humanitarian workers while they do their job and ensure access to people most in need.

Last year, the European Commission mobilised the largest ever humanitarian aid budget to assist those in the greatest need. From the victims of the conflicts in Syria and South Sudan, to strengthening our support for education in emergencies, or helping those affected by the "El Niño" extreme weather phenomenon, our help has supported the most vulnerable.

The European Union is proud to be a world leader in humanitarian assistance and to have helped more than 134 million victims of natural and man-made disasters across more than 80 countries in 2015."