World Humanitarian Day
On Aug. 19, 2003, the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations were bombed and 22 aid workers were killed.

Aug. 19 has now been designated World Humanitarian Day, a day to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives doing humanitarian work. While it is certainly a day to pay respects to those who are gone, it is also an occasion to honor their legacy by raising awareness about humanitarian efforts around the world.

Various organizations are using World Humanitarian Day as an opportunity to gain momentum for their cause and to honor different kinds of humanitarians.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Humanitarian workers are the type of people who dedicate their lives to being able to provide detailed, confident answers to that question.

By visiting the official website for World Humanitarian Day, anyone can agree to “donate” their Facebook or Twitter feed to a cause for the day. A story will be told about a specific health worker and his or her experience in the field. This raises awareness about aid workers all across the world who dedicate their time and resources in a multitude of ways to help those who need it.

Vincent Omuga, Deputy Head of Office for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says WHD is an occasion to showcase humanitarians and “their dignity, strength and humanity to inspire us all.”

The hashtag #sharehumanity is being used to share stories about aid workers all over the international community.

We are in an age where social media is a powerful way to transmit information. It can be all-consuming, but that feature can be used to the advantage of worthwhile causes. It is the perfect way to raise awareness about worthwhile causes and the people who are fighting for them throughout the world.

It’s easy for individuals to get involved, but entire groups are getting in on it as well. All sorts of organizations are taking part in the #sharehumanity social media campaign.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has voiced their support and involvement of the movement.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are honoring humanitarian workers by telling stories about the aid they offer across the globe and by calling on people throughout the world to help make sure these workers are kept safe.

USAID released a statement about the five major crises that their Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DARTs) responded to this year and voiced their involvement with and support of the #sharehumanity campaign.

The World Health Organization is encouraging the use of the hashtag #thankshealthhero to pay tribute to the health workers who sacrifice their own comfort, position in society, health and sometimes even their lives trying to help others. They encourage people everywhere to use the hashtag and send messages of thanks to these heroes between now and the World Humanitarian Summit next May.

World Humanitarian Day is the perfect opportunity to jumpstart knowledge about the people who deserve immense recognition. The effects of World Humanitarian Day will, hopefully, emanate far beyond Aug. 19. It is a part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness and to honor all those who serve. In short, World Humanitarian Day will #sharehumanity.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: International Committee of the Red Cross, ReliefWeb, UNFPA, USAID, WHO
Photo: Youth Kiawaaz

In 1972, six Pakistani workers were gunned down by police during a peaceful demonstration in Karachi as a part of the ongoing labor movement. On Saturday June 7th, the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research organized a moving memorial for the martyred victims.

The labor leaders in attendance honored the memory of the workers and lamented that the Pakistani labor movement had regressed significantly since 1972. The one thing that has remained constant is the conflict between state officials and labor leaders.

In fact, several of the organizing labor leaders for the memorial have outstanding arrest warrants due their activities in budding labor unions.

The labor movement began in 1971 in response to the widespread firing of workers in Karachi. The textile mill owners had virtually no accountability, either to their workers or to the government. Unjustified layoffs were becoming par for the course in the Sindh province, but the local employees were fed up. They finally decided to organize a protest.

Workers gathered outside Feroz Textile mills in a peaceful demonstration on June 7, 1972. The police opened fire on the crowd with no provocation. The police were trying to disperse the gathering, and they decided to do it with lethal action.

A key organizer, Muttahida Mazdoor Federation Shoaib, was shot and killed in the protest.

The next day, a funeral was held for Shoaib. The funeral was attended by a mourning and outraged crowd of laborers. The funeral turned into a protest over the police’s actions just one day ago.

The police open fire yet again. Five workers were killed this time.

Despite widespread support, the labor movement withered in the face of state-sanctioned violence.

Today, Pakistani labor leaders regret that labor conditions today are even worse than they were in 1972. They said that at least then there were bonafide unions and workers had collective power.

The labor situation in modern Pakistan is as dire as ever. Labor unions are nonexistent since most companies explicitly forbid them in their contracts. Collective bargaining is unheard of, and worst of all, child labor and slavery still exist.

These atrocious labor conditions have wreaked havoc on the already downtrodden Pakistani working class. The country has faced an increase in terrorism from the Afghan war. Floods have ravaged the homes and destroyed the crops of millions of Pakistanis. Unemployment and poverty run rampant, and the working poor are powerless to improve their condition through formal labor unions.

Their only hope lies in the prospect of collective action like their ancestors did in the 1972 labor crisis. This time around, Pakistan should have the backing of the international community. Human rights violations are no longer tolerated so easily.

Despite the upward battle the working poor face in Pakistan, they look to gain inspiration from the sacrifices of those six workers over forty years ago.

– Sam Hillestad

Sources: Daily Times, US Department of Labor, Pakistaniaat, PWF

Photo: Balochistan Express