By Lisa Zengarini

Aug 21 2023

On World Humanitarian Aid Day (WHD), Pope Francis reiterates his call for reducing military spending to provide for growing humanitarian needs, thus converting “ the tools of death into tools of life” for the most vulnerable in war and disaster-stricken areas.

As the United Nations Humanitarian Day was marked on Saturday, 19 August, Pope Francis posted an appeal on his X social media account (formerly known as Twitter) calling once again for the conversion of military expenditure into humanitarian aid for the most needy.

“It is our responsibility to help eradicate hatred and violence from hearts”, the post reads. “We encourage you to lay down your arms, to reduce military spending to provide for humanitarian needs, to convert the tools of death into tools of life.”

Lack of funding of humanitarian aid as crises multiply

Pope Francis’ plea found an echo in the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ message for the Day, in which he decried the lack of funding of humanitarian aid, the demand of which has increased ten times in two decades. “As crises multiply, it is unacceptable that humanitarians are being forced to reduce aid to millions of people in need,”  Guterres said.

“This year, global humanitarian operations aim to get life-saving aid to 250 million people in 69 countries Sadly, funding is far off track”

The UN Secretary-General further noted that other challenges have also multiplied over the past 20 years, including “rising geopolitical tensions, a blatant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law and deliberate assault and disinformation campaigns”. Aid workers today also face much greater risks of been killed, injured or abducted. “Humanitarianism itself is now under attack”, Guterres lamented. 

World Humanitarian Day 2023

World Humanitarian Aid Day (WHD) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 to honour the work of humanitarian workers and raise awareness of the need for assistance in crises around the world.

The campaign’s theme, #NoMatterWhat, underscores the unwavering commitment of humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance to people in need, regardless of locations, challenges and dangers

20th anniversary of the bombing on the UN headquarters in Baghdad

This year’s campaign commemorates the 20th anniversary of the heinous bombing attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003, which killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

That tragedy, recalled Guterres in his message, marked a turning point, “because today, although humanitarians are respected around the world, they may also be targeted by those who would do them harm.”

Saluting the “courage and dedication” of humanitarian workers,  the UN Secretary-General  reaffirmed the UN’s full support for their work across the world.

“Humanitarians are finding new ways to venture deeper into disaster-stricken regions, and closer to the front lines of conflict, driven by a single purpose: to save and protect lives.” – Vatican News