We are thrilled to announce that for the first time, the United Nations has released their collection of over two hundred humanitarian symbols for everyone to use. By using The Noun Project’s upload tool, The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was able to dedicate their entire humanitarian symbol suite as public domain, allowing all of us to quickly and easily communicate some of the most crucial and complex concepts.
Symbols are some of the best communication tools we have to overcome many language and cultural barriers. When a disaster strikes, it is vital that the humanitarian community can gather reliable data on the locations and needs of affected people and who is best placed to assist them. This often involves the need to present complex information in a way that everyone can understand. By making these symbols easily accessible on The Noun Project, the United Nations is helping humanitarians, disaster responders, and everyone around the world quickly and easily communicate some of the most crucial and complex concepts, no matter where they are.
Akiko Harayama, Head of OCHA’s Advocacy and Visual Media Unit (AVMU) said: “After the first set of symbols was released in 2008, we started to receive requests for new symbols from our humanitarian partners, including UN agencies and NGOs in the field around the world. In the midst of a crisis response, relief workers would not have the time or design skills to create usable symbols. Clearly presenting and visualizing this information is the next step and hopefully leads to more effective and timely humanitarian assistance.”
Since 2008, the set of symbols has been expanded to cover everything from natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, to relief supplies like water containers and shelter kits. It also includes complex humanitarian issues, such as access to people in need and protection of civilians. Symbols like “Child Combatant”, “Population Displacement” and “Locust Infestation” are used by OCHA in maps, publications, website, as well as for advocacy and operational purposes. They illustrate the activities and challenges that relief workers face in dealing with emergencies around the world.
The symbols in the collection are universal and thus allow for quick comprehension across a wide audience. By releasing these symbols into the public domain and allowing anyone to access and use them, OCHA is helping bring awareness to these humanitarian issues. Symbols strip the concept they represent to its bare essence, allowing for a new way to articulate the idea so that anyone can understand it. This in turn creates new ways to express and share that idea and enables it to spread virally and create change in the world.
We want to extend a huge thank you to the United Nations OCHA and its staff for making this collection possible.
View the entire United Nations OCHA Collection.