Next Monday, World Humanitarian Day, pays tribute to aid workers, especially those killed doing their jobs. Around the world, 130m people are now dependent on humanitarian assistance. With 80% of need found in zones of conflict, the work of agencies that deliver aid is becoming increasingly dangerous and restrictive.
Last year, 131 aid workers were killed, with many more kidnapped or seriously injured, according to the most recent Aid Worker Security Report. The precariousness of humanitarian work reflects not only the deepening of conflict in many areas of the world, but also a growing disregard for aid workers and civilian populations.
Diplomacy and peace negotiations have been side-lined in favour of military responses, sanctions (which hurt the poorest) and counter-terrorism measures (which can compromise and even paralyse aid responses).
The effectiveness of these blunt measures in ending conflict is highly questionable; and they jeopardise the safety of populations and of aid workers.
We need a shift in how we tackle conflict and crisis, a shift that puts first the rights and safety of civilians and aid workers. Aid workers operate in some of the most difficult and inhumane situations in the world. They deserve assurance, to the greatest extent possible, that they will not become targets.
On World Humanitarian Day, it is vital that we not only remember those aid workers who have been lost, but that we better protect those of the future.
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- This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 16 August 2019.