Every 10 December, we commemorate the International Human Rights Day with a renewed belief and focus on ensuring that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights", as it is written in article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Dignity is central to the activity of humanitarian aid. When delivering life-saving assistance, humanitarian workers have always in mind their two main objectives: to protect the individual and to preserve his or her dignity.
According to the United Nations’ Global Humanitarian Overview, over 135 million people will need humanitarian aid across the world in 2018. International law stipulates that anyone facing a humanitarian crisis must receive the necessary assistance and protection, regardless of how they have been involved in the conflict or emergency. Unfortunately, millions of people continue to suffer from inadequate assistance and protection. And the number is increasing. The reasons behind this situation are diverse. Sometimes inevitable circumstances hamper the access to help. Some other times the reason are based on conscious decisions that aim at defending other interests than saving lives and protect dignity. In addition, it is a fact that the amount of international aid has not increased at the same pace as climate-related disasters and seemingly unsolvable conflicts. Nor has the international community kept its promise to help the affected population to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters and lead their own humanitarian response.
Back in 1997, a community of humanitarian actors established the Sphere Project. Meant as a tool to ensure the quality of humanitarian responses, protect the right to live with dignity of those affected by emergencies and hold those responsible for the quality of the response accountable for it. The better the quality of the response, the better dignity can be ensured and protected. From a humanitarian aid perspective, dignity entails more than physical well-being. It is about respecting people, their values and beliefs but also their human rights, including liberty, freedom of conscience and religious observance.
Humanitarian aid and human rights are and must continue to be inseparable. Therefore, I encourage everyone to mark this important day by promoting the fundamental rights of all people everywhere in the world and supporting humanitarian responses that are human rights-based and people-centred.
By Pilar Cuesta, Caritas Europa Humanitarian Aid Officer