Alexander De Croo and Philippe Goffin honour humanitarian workers on World Humanitarian Day

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense Philippe Goffin express their great appreciation for the important work of the humanitarian heroes on the ground. In total, Belgium is releasing 197 million euros in humanitarian funds this year, a historically high amount. This makes our country a particularly loyal and important humanitarian donor.

In memory of the 22 UN employees who died in the bombing of the UN office in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, 19 August has since 2008 been declared the "World Humanitarian Day". This year, the campaign of OCHA, the UN's humanitarian arm, revolves around the "real-life heroes" on the ground. "These invisible humanitarian heroes work in often very difficult circumstances at the risk of their own lives. They deserve not only respect, but also our concrete support", according to Alexander De Croo.

Belgian humanitarian aid in 2020

Unfortunately, the world was not spared from humanitarian disasters this year either. The COVID19 pandemic has an enormous impact on both developed and developing countries. Especially for countries that already had to deal with a humanitarian crisis, the needs only increased. Belgium has therefore decided to release 22 million euros in additional humanitarian aid within the framework of the Corona battle.

More recently, Minister De Croo released six million euros in humanitarian emergency aid to deal with the state of emergency in Beirut, following the huge explosion in the port. The funds are being deployed by humanitarian partner organisations where the needs of the Lebanese population are most urgent: medical assistance, food distribution and the reconstruction of housing and infrastructure.

Tomorrow B-Fast will also send a second C130 cargo plane to Beirut. It concerns mainly milk powder, vitamin-rich food and medical equipment to care for children. This aid is intended for the local UNICEF agency that - in close cooperation with the Belgian embassy - will take care of the distribution. On Friday Minister Goffin will fly to Beirut to further strengthen Belgian support to the Lebanese population.

In addition, our country will of course continue to be active on the humanitarian front in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, DRC and the Sahel region, where the dramatic deaths of 8 French and Nigerian humanitarian workers last week once again show the dangerous conditions in which they have to work.

All in all, the humanitarian budget for 2020 is €197 million, a record. Moreover, our humanitarian policy is guided by the principles of "Good Humanitarian Donorship". This is in line with the commitment our country made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2015. One of the principles is predictable funding for humanitarian organizations so that they can respond flexibly, quickly and dynamically to changing humanitarian needs, as is currently the case in Lebanon, for example. On average, more than 60% of Belgian humanitarian funds go to flexible funds. Belgian support allows these organisations to respond quickly, which fits the profile of our country as a responsible multilateral partner.

Belgium’s commitment in the UN Security Council

Moreover, the humanitarian aspects of the numerous crises around the world have always been at the heart of the Belgian mandate as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) which will expire at the end of December. Our country advocates compliance with international humanitarian law, with particular attention to the access and protection of humanitarian aid workers. As co-penholder, for example, our country has made far-reaching efforts to renew the so-called cross-border resolution of the UNSC, which should enable cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria.

Philippe Goffin: "The humanitarian needs of millions of civilians in northeastern Syria are enormous. There is a huge shortage of medicines and food, especially now that the COVID19 pandemic is spreading in the region. Without a resolution of the UNSC, they threatened to be completely cut off from humanitarian aid with all its consequences. Safeguarding humanitarian access in Syria and respecting international humanitarian law are therefore priorities for Belgium". Minister Goffin also underlines the need for a political process in which the role of civil society, including the role of women, is essential.

Competent partners

Providing humanitarian aid is a particularly complex operation. Belgium therefore works with a multitude of partners in the field - the UN, the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), NGOs - all of whom give the best of themselves on the basis of their expertise. The UN often plays a more coordinating role. The NGOs can respond to local needs and are close to the affected population.

On this World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to "real-life heroes", Ministers De Croo and Goffin would like to express their great appreciation for the daily courage and commitment of all our partners in the field and in particular the Belgian NGOs such as Médecins sans Frontières, Handicap International, Oxfam, Caritas, Tearfund, Plan International, the Red Cross,...