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Summary: 13 October 2010, New York - Introductory remarks by H.E. Ambassador Pedro Serrano, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations at the Presentation of the UN Secretary-General's report on Safety & Security of humanitarian personnel and protection of UN personnel by Under Secretary-General Gregory Starr, Head of UN Department of Safety and Security
Being a humanitarian worker is not an easy job. But being a humanitarian worker in a conflict zone is an extremely difficult job, which equals exposure to numerous risks and threats. Indeed, the conditions in which humanitarian workers operate have become increasingly dangerous. Humanitarian emblems and flags which traditionally provided a shield for humanitarian workers have now unfortunately often become deliberately selected targets. This trend of politically motivated attacks, together with the increasing number of incidents, is highly alarming. Only last year, more than 100 humanitarian workers were killed and around 90 were kidnapped, which is respectively three and four times more than 10 years ago.
Often, the most dangerous places are at the same time the places where the humanitarian needs and challenges are the greatest. Humanitarian workers face an agonizing dilemma: to maintain vital humanitarian assistance for the victims, or to protect their own lives? It is unacceptable that exactly those people who are there to assist people in need, become the targets of attacks, often by being perceived as associated with a political agenda.
For the European Union, the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers is a concern at the heart of the EU’s humanitarian action. Expressing our sympathy and our admiration for the dedication and courage of those people is not enough. We need to take determined action on the international level. The European Union, as a major humanitarian donor and a major political actor, is ready to fully assume its responsibilities. And we have done so.
On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day on 19 august, the European Commission launched the campaign called “Don't shoot, I'm a humanitarian worker!” in honour of humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or freedom, or have been injured during the course of their work. This campaign is meant to sensitize on the dangers and difficulties faced by humanitarian workers. On the occasion of the launch, Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said that we need to “continue to raise awareness of the worsening security conditions for those who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others.”
Furthermore, to address those security and safety challenges, the European Union funds specific projects with security components, for example in Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Afghanistan and Gaza.
And more specifically here in the framework of the activities of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the European Union is the sponsor on the Resolution “Safety & Security on humanitarian personnel and protection of UN personnel”.
It is a great honor to chair this meeting on the presentation of the Report of the Secretary General on the matter. We all know the commitment and dedication of USG Starr and the Department of Safety and Security to enable humanitarian personnel and United Nations personnel to remain on the field, to deliver on their mandate and to provide the vital humanitarian assistance to the victims who need it. We would like to express our sincere appreciation for all the work by DSS over the last year and to continue to lend our support for your work. Safety and security definitely represents one of the most challenging issues for the humanitarian community of the present time.