Friday Reads: World Humanitarian Day

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Saturday, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day (WHD). Designated by the United Nations in 2009, World Humanitarian Day marks the day, in 2003, on which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sérgio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his colleagues were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad. It is held on the same day each year to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world.


“For WHD 2017, humanitarian partners are coming together to reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget. …With events held around the world, we will raise our voices to advocate for those most vulnerable in war zones, and demand that world leaders do everything their power to protect civilians in conflict.”

To learn more visit World Humanitarian Day (UN).

To commemorate humanitarian efforts and sacrifice, we have selected the following titles:


The Rights of Man by H.G. WellsTHE RIGHTS OF MAN by H.G. Wells

The first-ever U.S. publication of H. G. Wells’ influential manifesto, with an introduction by fellow novelist and human rights activist Ali Smith that highlights its relevance now.




While exploring the basis and creation of humanitarian law—the direct result of the unprecedented atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich—East West Street is also a moving personal detective story.



Human Rights and the Uses of History by Samuel MoynHUMAN RIGHTS AND THE USES OF HISTORY: EXPANDED SECOND EDITION by Samuel Moyn

What are the origins of human rights? This question, rarely asked before the end of the Cold War, has in recent years become a major focus of historical and ideological strife. In this sequence of reflective and critical studies, Samuel Moyn engages with some of the leading interpreters of human rights, thinkers who have been creating a field from scratch without due reflection on the local and temporal contexts of the stories they are telling.


Chasing Chaos by Jessica AlexanderCHASING CHAOS: MY DECADE IN AND OUT OF HUMANITARIAN AID by Jessica Alexander

Jessica Alexander arrived in Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide as an idealistic intern, eager to contribute to the work of the international humanitarian aid community. But the world that she encountered in the field was dramatically different than anything she could have imagined. It was messy, chaotic, and difficult—but she was hooked. In this honest and irreverent memoir, she introduces readers to the realities of life as an aid worker.


Syrian Dust by Francesca BorriSYRIAN DUST: REPORTING FROM THE HEART OF THE WAR by Francesca Borri, Anne Milano Appel

August 21, 2013: a chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus reminds the world of the existence of the Syrian war. Hundreds of journalists from every corner of the world rush to the frontier only to leave disappointed when Obama decides not to bomb. They leave behind 200,000 estimated victims, and more than half of a population of 22 million people dispersed or refugee in nearby countries: the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII according to the UN.


Until We Are Free by Shirin EbadiUNTIL WE ARE FREE: MY FIGHT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN by Shirin Ebadi

The inspiring story of a fearless woman who lost nearly everything fighting for human rights in her homeland—Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.


Coming in November:

The Last Girl by Nadia MuradTHE LAST GIRL: MY STORY OF CAPTIVITY, AND MY FIGHT AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE by Nadia Murad, Foreword by Amal Clooney

In this intimate memoir of survival, a former captive of the Islamic State tells her harrowing and ultimately inspiring story.



For more on these and related titles visit the collection Humanitarian

Posted: August 17, 2017