Today, the United States joins the international community to honor those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to people in need.
As the Syrian crisis carries on, we must continue to stand up for innocent civilians in the middle of a conflict they did not provoke. On a recent trip to Turkey, I spoke to refugees from Syria. Whether operating under the red of the Turkish flag, the blue of a UN vest or a local community member pointing the way to safety, every single person who helped them is a humanitarian. The men and women of humanitarian organizations put their lives on the line every day in order to provide life-saving aid to those in need.
The average Turkish citizen may not have volunteered to be a humanitarian – they just happened to live near the crisis. But they have accepted their Syrian neighbors with open arms and have assumed the duty of protecting them. The same is being done in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
The United States is proud to be a leading donor to humanitarian efforts around the world, working with other governments, aid groups and international organizations to save lives and reunite people with their loved ones. But this work does come at a significant cost. We were reminded of that cost earlier this month when USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah died in Afghanistan. His dedication to our humanitarian, economic, and national security efforts is an example of the highest standards of service. We were shocked and saddened by this loss. But we must continue the work that he so passionately believed in.
2012 has been designated by the UN as the year to say, “I was here”. We have all been challenged to do one good thing, somewhere, for someone else. From Syria to the Sahel, people of goodwill are finding ways to exemplify what it means to be a humanitarian. So let’s continue to stand up and speak out for those who cannot. Let’s redouble our efforts to this highest and noblest cause.