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#whiteribbonforhumanitarians I 17 December 2020

“When one human being dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.” - John Donne (1573 – 1631) English poet, scholar and reluctant cleric.

We see the headlines again and again: “Four humanitarians killed in battle in Ethiopia”, “Two humanitarian workers kidnapped in Nigeria”, etc. Among the overload of news we are exposed to daily, such reports are easily overlooked. Yet again, in 2020, as in previous years, hundreds of humanitarian aid workers were killed, injured and kidnapped.

It is impossible to tell the impact this has on family, friends and co-workers, not to speak of the impact on affected populations of conflict and natural disaster, who will miss out on urgently needed support. While the year is not over yet, the numbers and incidents reported by the Aid Worker Security Database [https://aidworkersecurity.org] might be lower than those of the year before (2019: 125 killed, vs 94 in 2020, till November) – no doubt due to global pandemic and Covid-19, which severely interrupted many humanitarian aid programs. However, if we apply a much more generous view of who is a humanitarian, then the numbers would probably be a multiple of the reported, given how many carers and medical staff have put their lives on the line, and been exposed to a deadly virus, to help those who have fallen ill of Covid this year.

CoCreate Humanity has elected the 17 December as a day to commemorate and honour all those humanitarians who have lost their lives while carrying out a humanitarian mission and to bear testimony to their achievements.

Death, injury and kidnapping is unfortunately a constant companion of humanitarian aid work. We do not just see it afflicting the populations we serve and support in contexts of conflict and natural disaster, we also see it among our colleagues. Dealing with loss is difficult, as well as understanding the unpredictability of such events. While we often choose not to talk about it, avoiding grief does not help. Also, it doesn’t do justice to the life and achievements of our colleagues who we have lost over the years.

CoCreate Humanity would like to invite you to join us and set aside a moment of time on 17 December this year, to light a candle and tie a white ribbon on a tree, to commemorate either a colleague you have lost recently or a long time ago, or simply to acknowledge all humanitarians who have lost their lives over the last 12 months.

We would also like to invite you to tie a white ribbon to your social media account (profile picture) between the 14th and 21st December, to show your solidarity with humanitarians worldwide.

Hashtag #whiteribbonforhumanitarians

The white ribbon campaign was born in 2018 in Novye Atagi, when members of the local population came together to tie a white ribbon to the trees who were planted to commemorate the aid workers who were murdered there 22 years earlier.

The White Ribbon can also be downloaded here.

Let the white ribbon be the “better language” by which we remember, acknowledge and honor the life, work and achievements of all humanitarian workers worldwide.


PS: On 17 December 1996, six humanitarian workers were killed in a premeditated and targeted attack on the staff quarters of a hospital run by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Novye Atagi, Chechnya. While this event was by no means the only one with loss of life in the humanitarian sector, it was nevertheless one with deep and far reaching impacts.

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