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19 August 2010 - World Humanitarian Day - Statement by B. Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

"World Humanitarian Day" has particular significance today at a time when the international community is mobilizing its efforts in support of Pakistan which has been so tragically hit by massive floods.

This day pays tribute to the commitment of humanitarian workers and to the memory of Sergio Vieira De Mello.

My friend Sergio Vieira De Mello devoted his life to promoting peace and human rights. On August 19, 2003, Sergio and 21 of his colleagues fell victim to an attack in Baghdad while they were participating in the recovery of Iraq within the framework of United Nations action. Today, I want to pay tribute once again to this extraordinary man, whose commitment remains an example to us all.

This day belongs to all humanitarian personnel working in dangerous regions, often risking their lives, in order to relieve the suffering of vulnerable populations. I want to express my profound respect for and appreciation of their courage and devotion.

Our thoughts go in particular to the humanitarian workers killed in Afghanistan two weeks ago and to our compatriot, Michel Germaneau, who was killed in the Sahel last month. We also remember the 17 members of Action Against Hunger who were executed in 2006 in Muttur in Sri Lanka; their murderers have still not been found.

The security of humanitarian personnel is a priority for France. The attacks against them negate the solidarity which forms the basis of humanitarian action. They represent a scourge for the international community and all States must take appropriate measures to deal with them. That is why France is determined to try and strengthen the security of humanitarian personnel, notably at the next United Nations General Assembly.

France will continue to support the humanitarian reform efforts initiated by the United Nations aimed at improving the coordination and effectiveness of relief operations, particularly during major catastrophes such as in Haiti or Pakistan.



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