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Statement by Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing

World Humanitarian Day

16 August 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,


We join you from Baghdad, where we have gathered today in sombre commemoration of a tragic occasion. Fifteen years ago, on 19 August 2003, the UN headquarters in Baghdad were torn apart by a massive bomb blast. Twenty-two of our colleagues and friends were killed in this appalling attack, including Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio de Mello. More than a hundred people were injured.

A number of survivors of the Canal Hotel bombing are among the UN staff here with me. Despite the horrors of that day and the many catastrophes that have befallen Iraq since, they remain committed to playing their role in building a peaceful, long-term future for their country. I wholeheartedly commend them for their tenacity and their courage.

Fifteen years on from that murderous attack, we continue to witness across the globe vicious threats and assaults against innocent civilians, humanitarian workers, healthcare professionals, civil society actors, the staff of international organisations, and countless brave women and men who put themselves in considerable danger to assist individuals and communities affected by conflict.

The 2018 World Humanitarian Day campaign #NotATarget draws valuable attention to the millions of people in danger around the world as they strive for safety, security, shelter, food and water. This campaign should be a rallying cry for governments everywhere to do better by their citizens and abide by their international obligations. It is a demand for action, for governments to do their duty in protecting civilians, including humanitarian and medical workers, and civilian infrastructures.

For our part, we pledge to continue holding governments to account on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law; on ensuring violations are brought to justice; on providing humanitarian access and protection to vulnerable communities, particularly women and children. We continue to affirm that civilians are #NotATarget. That we, too, as staff of international humanitarian organisations, are #NotATarget.

We remember the sacrifices of our twenty-two fallen United Nations staff members in Baghdad. We pay tribute to them, as well as to our numerous colleagues since that day who have lost their lives in the service of humanity. Let our continuing commitment to peace and justice be their legacy.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 August 2018 16:27