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London 19:28, 02 Jan 2013
New York 14:28, 02 Jan 2013
Last updated at 20:11 (UK time) 18 Dec 2012

Humanitarian issues

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

African Children

World Humanitarian Day

In December 2008, the UN General Assembly decided to designate 19 August, the date of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003, World Humanitarian Day. Twenty-two people lost their lives in the bombing, including UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The objective of World Humanitarian Day is to contribute to raising public awareness of humanitarian work and the importance of international cooperation. It also honours all humanitarian, UN and associated personnel who have been killed or injured in the course of their duty.


The UN commemorated World Humanitarian Day at the UN Headquarters in New York on 19 August, where special emphasis was given to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.
The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos and member states of the General Assembly gathered at the premiere of a music single and video, titled “If I Could Change”.  The track was a collaborative efforts between global artists including Ziggy Marley, Somali group Sweet Rush,and Pakistani band Junoon.  A contributing song and video by Beyonce was also unveiled.

Speaking ahead of this year's World Humanitarian Day, UK Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell said, "Humanitarian workers are on the front line of the battle to save lives in the most horrendous circumstances. From famines to floods and conflicts to earthquakes, humanitarian workers around the world risk their own safety to help others on a daily basis.

"World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to reflect on the courage and bravery of those helping people in the most desperate circumstances.

"It is also a day to recognise and take pride in the excellent work of British humanitarian experts who are in the Horn of Africa today helping millions of people facing starvation."

Find out how UK humanitarian workers have delivered assistance around the world.

World Humanitarian Day

More information on World Humanitarian Day can be found here.

Humanitarian assistance

The devastating impact of natural disasters and new, or on-going, conflict affects millions of people each year, resulting in the loss of lives, possessions and livelihoods.

The UK is committed to ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people are met in a timely, effective and appropriate way.  Our goal is to save lives, relief suffering and protect dignity.  We work closely with humanitarian organisations, to assist in the provision of humanitarian relief, in accordance with the principles of humanitarianism and good humanitarian donorship. We believe that assistance should be delivered on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within the affected population.

UK support

The UK is the second largest bilateral global donor to the international humanitarian system.  In 2009/10 the UK, via the Department for International Development, spent £528m on humanitarian assistance; this funding was channelled through UN agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross, and the European Community Humanitarian Office.  

In terms of support for the UN humanitarian effort, the UK is the biggest donor to the Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and also the largest contributor to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The CERF provides rapid and reliable funding when disaster strikes, and also helps the UN to respond to underfunded or forgotten emergencies like Niger, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire or the DRC.   

The UK also maintains strong links with UN programmes and specialised agencies with a protection and assistance mandate. These include the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). For details of DFID partnership agreements with these agencies and organisations, click on the relevant link above.