19 August 2016 marked the 8th World Humanitarian Day, a United Nations initiative which celebrates humanitarian aid workers. This year, World Humanitarian Day focused on ‘Youth in Humanitarian Action’. This theme comes after the launch of the new ‘Global Compact for Young people in Humanitarian Action’ which was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016.
The World Heart Federation was invited to attend the World Humanitarian Day celebrations at the United Nations in Geneva, due to our advocacy focus on Migrant Health at the World Health Assembly last May [See WHF migrant health statement]. The celebrations recognized the contribution of youth to communities recovering from disasters and conflict, and acknowledged their wider role in international humanitarian aid. The event included a panel discussion, and a solemn commemoration ceremony, as well as creative side events led by artists and film-makers.
The panel discussion shared a variety of perspectives on youth involvement in humanitarian aid. The World Heart Federation was especially interested to hear the experiences of the Youth Representatives on the panel. These included Kerstin Magdalena Wjciechowski, who spoke about her work in the field on behalf of the Red Cross, and Zohoor Asiri, a medical doctor, who shared her experience of working in Greek refugee camps and highlighted the need to use the skills of young aid workers in imaginative ways to combat the migration crisis.
After a solemn Commemoration Ceremony to remember those injured and killed in the course of their humanitarian work, the United Nations showcased some artwork inspired by humanitarian crises. ‘Augen-Black’ was an interactive, reflexive art project that consisted of 22 photos taken by 6 young refugees with disposable cameras to document their everyday life. ‘Time to Muse’ presented a selection original portraits of refugees, activists, volunteers and social workers, all with closed eyes, to represent a united community facing the migration ‘crisis’, rather than marginalizing refugees as a separate entity.
Finally, the Short Film Festival covered issues such as migration, the Ebola response, and post-conflict peace-building, providing a number of thought-provoking documentaries. The World Heart Federation is encouraged that the United Nations is prioritizing youth and health issues in its response to humanitarian issues, and will continue to advocate for the health rights of migrants across the world.