Vienna, 18 August 2010 Press release

Spindelegger: "Humanitarian aid workers need better international protection"

Foreign Minister on World Humanitarian Day

Vienna, 18 August 2010 - "The tireless commitment of humanitarian aid workers in disaster and crisis areas around the world must be secured in the best possible way. The thousands of aid workers dispatched by the United Nations and many non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross to crisis regions often work under difficult conditions and great personal risks“, said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the occasion of the second World Humanitarian Day on 19 August.

The Foreign Minister expressed his deep concern, particularly in view of the growing violence toward civilians and humanitarian aid workers who more and more frequently fall victim to deadly attacks by the conflict parties during their mission: "Humanitarian aid workers operate strictly under the principles of impartiality and neutrality, and their only aim is to quickly and efficiently deliver aid to people who are suffering. Therefore, attacks against them must not remain unpunished. Within the international community, we must undertake all efforts to ensure the respect of the humanitarian space and compliance with humanitarian international law." 

As a member of the United Nations Security Council, Austria contributes to compliance with humanitarian international law as one of its top priorities. For instance, UN resolution 1894 on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts negotiated by Austria provides for the protection of humanitarian aid workers as one of its major objectives next to the protection of civilians. Spindelegger: "The unanimous adoption of the resolution under Austrian presidency in November 2009 was a clear signal toward creating legal barriers to violence in armed conflicts and recognizing and supporting the work of humanitarian aid workers. Austria will continue to support a consistent compliance with humanitarian international law and the improvement of international standards for the protection of civilians and humanitarian aid workers, both within the United Nations and together with its EU partners", said the Foreign Minister. 

"World Humanitarian Day" was established by a UN General Assembly resolution on 11 December 2008. It was initiated by the family of former UN Special Envoy for Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Bagdad on 19 August 2003 together with 21 humanitarian aid workers. The World Day aims to draw public attention to humanitarian aid work and to the difficult and dangerous conditions for humanitarian aid workers, who all too often lose their lives during their aid mission. Just last week 10 aid workers were murdered in Afghanistan

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