Politicians, dignitaries and celebrities support World Humanitarian Day
Published Sunday, August 19, 2012 2:59PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 19, 2012 3:47PM EDT
Politicians, dignitaries and celebrities are taking part in World Humanitarian Day Sunday, to recognize the work and contributions of aid workers around the world.
From Michelle Obama to Lady Gaga to Justin Bieber, participants are urging people to take the time Sunday to help others. The campaign hopes to reach 1 billion people.
In a statement released by the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the day represents an opportunity to promote the idea generosity, as well as honouring aid workers who have died on the job.
“This year’s World Humanitarian Day presents an historic opportunity to bring together one billion people from around the world to advance a powerful and proactive idea: People Helping People. That is the best way to honour the many fallen aid workers we mourn today, and to celebrate the efforts of others who carry on their noble mission by rushing assistance to those who are suffering,” read the statement published on the UN website.
The UN officially designated Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day in 2009. The day was chosen to mark the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, an incident that killed 22 staff members.
Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino also released a statement Sunday, praising the work of Canadian aid workers around the world who often brave risky conditions to help others.
“World Humanitarian Day celebrates these devoted individuals who work long hours under difficult, and often dangerous, conditions to help those in need. Their dedication to responding to emergencies and improving lives is an inspiration to us all,” he said.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae also praised the work of aid workers in a statement released Sunday.
“World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary commitment of humanitarian workers serving around the world who, day after day, face danger and adversity to help the most vulnerable,” he said.
“The contribution of these exceptional individuals and their dedication to a better, safer world, deserves our respect and recognition.”
To celebrate the occasion popstar Beyonce performed her single “I was here” at the UN in New York last week. The performance was taped and the video was released Sunday.
World Vision Canada Senior Program Manager Lindsay Gladding told CTV News Channel Sunday that while celebrity endorsements can certainly draw attention to a humanitarian cause, she hopes interested individuals will take the opportunity to learn more about the issues.
“The work that Beyonce and other celebrities have done to raise their voice on issues that children face all over the world I think is very important,” she said. “And I hope that people who hear that message would take the opportunity to learn more. That voice represents the first step that people take to understand the issues.”
Gladding said World Vision Canada is currently focused on providing aid to the thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled into neighbouring Lebanon to escape the ongoing violence in Syria.
And while aid workers do often work in conflict zones, Gladding said individuals interested in helping can opt to participate in projects closer to home.
“It’s about finding people’s individual passions, what they feel most drawn to. You don’t need to travel the world and be in war zones to be a humanitarian. It can be as simple as helping your neighbour -- doing anything that helps other people is important.
“Humanitarianism is about people helping people, so anyone can be a humanitarian,” she said.