This is a guest post from Isabela Medina-Mate.
World Humanitarian Day (WHD) takes place every year on August 19th, and was designated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.
Originally designed to recognize aid workers, WHD has evolved to highlight different areas related to humanitarian action, mobilizing everyday people to advocate for the broader humanitarian cause. The day has expanded to advocate for the protection of civilians in urban areas, children, humanitarian workers, health workers, and forcibly displaced people.
This year, the camping the campaign will launch the first ever Living Petition, a petition that focuses on the protection of civilians caught in conflict and galvanizes on the success of last year’s #NotATarget movement.
This Living Petition is like no other; instead of signing with a name – the petition is signed with a selfie.
These selfie “signatures”, collected from around the world, will be projected onto a real-life installation at the UN Headquarters in New York for the duration of the UN General Assembly, facing world leaders as they walk by.
Now more than ever, it is essential for world leaders to recognize the need for safety of civilians in conflict. The Living Petition is a unique and revolutionary way for global citizens to get involved and demand positive change.
In 2017 alone, the United Nations recorded the death or injury of more than 26,000 civilians in attacks in six countries: 10,000 in Afghanistan, more than 8,000 in Iraq, some 2,600 in Somalia and approximately the same number in Yemen [SG’s Report on the Protection of Civilians 2018].
This World Humanitarian Day we continue to bring attention to the millions of civilians affected by armed conflict every day. People in cities and towns struggle to find food, water, and safe shelter, while fighting drives millions from their homes. Children are recruited and used to fight, and their schools are destroyed. Women are abused and humiliated. As humanitarian workers deliver aid, and medical workers treat the wounded and sick, they are directly targeted, treated as threats, and prevented from bringing relief and care to those in desperate need.
The humanitarian concerns described here can’t possibly capture the lives of all those affected by conflict around the world. From people with disabilities, to the elderly, migrants, and journalists, all civilians caught in conflict need to be protected.
WHD 2018 is gives more meaning to the selfie – a selfless selfie, for the good of civilians everywhere.
Join the UN in proclaiming protection of all those in conflict, by signing the Living Petition, and demand say that civilians are #NotATarget.
About Isabela Medina-Mate:
Isabela Medina-Mate is a Master of Public Policy working on the intersection between Humanitarian policy and visual story telling.
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