Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran
World Humanitarian Day 2013
Besmellah – hey – Rahman – ur – Rahim,
Salaam va Sobh beh kheyr.
Khanom-ha va Aghoyan,
Let me, at the outset, say how delighted we are that you can join us today for this special commemorative ceremony.
I thank all of you very much for accepting our invitation.
There is a special reason why we commemorate 19 August as our World Humanitarian Day.
It was on this day – exactly 10 years ago – that Sérgio Vieira de Mello – the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq – and 21 of his team were tragically killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad in 2003.
Since that time, the world community has commemorated every 19th August – and we have used it to praise the tireless efforts of our humanitarian workers.
We do this for ALL humanitarian workers, not just those who are working under the blue flag of the UN.
For instance, many who are represented in this very room today are from the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS).
Every day these brave men and women are prepared to face danger – to meet and resist adversity – and to do this in many corners of the world.
Since 2003, dozens of aid workers have been killed while doing their duties.
What drives these heroes is a simple goal. They want to help those who have been affected by either natural disasters or complex emergencies.
They do this because the impulse to go to the aid of those who are in need – or in harm’s way – is a basic human instinct.
When the earthquake hit Azerbaijan Province on 11 August 2012, the world was able to see how spontaneously Iranians sprung into action – both professional rescue workers – and ordinary Iranians.
Iran is a country prone to natural disasters.
Every year we face sudden-onset disasters such as earthquakes and flash floods which take a heavy toll on human lives and on the economy.
But, in addition, we are also threatened by slow-onset disasters like drought, desertification and the environmental consequences of climate change which pose a relentless threat to the lives and lifestyles of ordinary Iranians.
But in the face of this, Iran has demonstrated a strong and increasingly-powerful capacity to respond to natural disasters – especially after the lessons learnt following the tragic earthquake in Bam in 2003.
Since that time, Iran has built up an enviable capacity on disaster risk reduction and management.
Indeed, Iran is among the first countries in Asia to establish a national platform for disaster management following the recommendations of the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA).
Iran has promulgated the national disaster management Act in 2009 and established the National Disaster Management Organization (NDMO). These entities – and the constant drilling and coordination which take place – will reduce – but not eliminate – the impact of those disasters which may befall us in the future.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has a considerable strength in providing immediate response and relief to affected populations, not only within the country, but also throughout the region – and beyond.
The UN has watched with enthusiasm as the IRCS has become active in many emergencies beyond Iran’s borders – emergencies like those in China, Pakistan, Haiti, Somalia, Turkey and many countries of the Central Asia.
We encourage Iran to continue – and even increase – the sharing of this capacity – and this expertise – on a regional basis for countries which need Iran’s help.
I am delighted that today we have representatives of NDMO and IRCS in our commemoration event. Led by NDMO, the UN is partnering with four other agencies, including IRCS, in a unique effort to address disaster risk reduction and management.
Today, we have among us a variety of people, organizations, research and academic institutions, international and national NGOs whom we consider them as our UN partners.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the private sector. The private sector plays a crucial role in supporting charities and humanitarian institutions working on disaster reduction and management.
Some prominent members of the private sector have kindly accepted our invitation to be here today. The private sector has placed its resources at our disposal in times of greatest need. And I would like to recognize this.
The United Nations humanitarian team in Iran welcomes partnership with private sector and stands ready to build joint initiatives that assist people affected by disasters.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the work of our very own United Nations Humanitarian Team.
We praise all these humanitarian efforts.
And the United Nations stands ready to assist our trusted partners in Iran any moment.
Once again, I thank you very much for accepting our invitation to be here.
In closing, let me recall that one of the world’s holy books says this simple phrase about humanitarianism: “Greater love hath no man than this – that he lay down his life for a friend”.
So, I would now like to ask you to join me in a minute of silence for Sérgio – with whom I once worked in Pakistan – and his colleagues, and all aid workers – everywhere – who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of saving others.