Civilians are #NotATarget
by OCHA, ICRC, IFRC, MSF, agencies
2:10pm 4th Aug, 2018
Every year World Humanitarian Day brings citizens of the world together to rally support for people living in humanitarian crises and to pay tribute to the aid workers who help them. This year, World Humanitarian Day builds on the momentum created by the 2017 #NotATarget campaign, which saw more than 2 million people take actions urging global leaders to do a better job of protecting civilians, humanitarians and health workers in conflict zones.
Civilians in conflict zones are routinely killed or maimed in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. Last year, the United Nations recorded the deaths or injuries of tens of thousands of civilians in attacks in just six conflict-affected countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.
The failure of parties to conflict to protect civilians cannot go unchallenged. Around the world, conflict is exacting a massive toll on people’s lives. People in cities and towns struggle to find food, water and safe shelter, while fighting drives millions of people from their homes.
Children are recruited by armed groups and used to fight, and their schools are destroyed. Women are abused and humiliated.
As humanitarian workers deliver aid and medical workers treat the sick and wounded, they are directly targeted, treated as threats, and prevented from bringing relief and care to those in desperate need.
Conflict has forced record numbers of people to flee their homes, with over 65 million people now displaced, most of them within their own borders.
Humanitarians and health workers are frequently targeted in attacks and prevented from carrying out impartial humanitarian or medical activities. Since 2003, over 4,000 humanitarians have been killed, injured, detained, kidnapped and prevented from responding to those in need. That is an average of 300 cases a year. In 2017, WHO recorded 322 attacks across conflict-affected countries including Afghanistan, CAR, DRC, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalis, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. These resulted in 242 deaths of and 229 injuries to medical personnel and patients.
There are rules governing fighters’ behaviour in war. Every time those rules are broken, human suffering intensifies. States and armed groups have clear and long established international legal obligations in conflict, including to protect civilians from harm, to spare schools and hospitals, and to ensure the safe and unimpeded passage of aid workers and supplies. Leaders and fighting forces must take active steps to spare civilians and the infrastructure they rely on.
Conflict increasingly takes place in towns and cities, injuring tens of thousands of civilians every year and laying waste to homes and vital infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, and water and power systems. More than 50 million people are currently affected by conflict in urban areas. Our global capacity to respond to these crises is increasingly overstretched.
Conflict-driven food insecurity and the potential for famine have left millions of lives hanging in the balance. Conflict is one of the main drivers of global food insecurity, in addition to climatic shock.
World leaders must ensure violators are held accountable. In his report this year on the Protection of Civilians in conflict, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to undertake credible and effective investigations into allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and to hold perpetrators to account, with the support of the United Nations as necessary.
At the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, global leaders made commitments to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity - to undertake actions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in armed conflict.
This year once again, millions of citizens from around the world are demanding that world leaders and non-state actors take action to protect people caught in armed conflict.
We demand that world leaders do everything in their power to protect civilians in conflict. Civilians are #NotATarget
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* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War: http://bit.ly/2EiXwpt
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict: http://bit.ly/2q9Dk6x
* States must act to fulfil famine victims’ right to food, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food: http://bit.ly/2OD2Nxt
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