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European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

The institutions of the European Union (EU) and the Member States undertake to coordinate their action based on common principles for their humanitarian aid interventions. The European Consensus on humanitarian aid represents a strategic framework, adopted following an analysis of operations carried out and consultation of the parties involved.


Joint Statement by the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission – The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid [Official Journal C 25 of 30.1.2008].


The European Consensus guides the actions of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid operations.

Humanitarian aid is aimed at protecting lives and alleviating human suffering in crisis situations resulting from human action and natural disasters. The EU thus supports governments and local actors in emergency operations to:

  • assist, provide relief and protect populations during a crisis or its immediate aftermath;
  • ensure the free movement of aid and access to vulnerable populations.

The EU is the largest donor of international public humanitarian aid, when European aid is calculated together with the bilateral aid granted by Member States. Humanitarian aid is a shared competence * of the EU, implemented in coordination with international and local actors.

Common humanitarian aid principles

Humanitarian aid is based on the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity *, neutrality *, impartiality * and independence *. The EU also complies with the principles of international law, in particular by adopting guidelines on the promotion of international humanitarian law.

Moreover, while modalities for action may vary between Member States, European donors comply with the principles and good practices for humanitarian aid, particularly in the context of the international initiative “Good Humanitarian Donorship”.

Humanitarian aid must be coordinated with other policies so that it can be adapted to each situation and can contribute to long-term development goals. Lastly, humanitarian action must comply with the principle of gender equality and take into account the diverse needs of populations.

European framework to deliver humanitarian aid

Aid operations must be conducted:

  • drawing on coordination, coherency and complementarity between the actors involved, to share information and expertise, intervention strategies and assessment, including at international level coordinated by the United Nations;
  • appropriately and effectively; intervention criteria must be defined according to situations, needs and the degree of vulnerability of populations;
  • based on principles of quality, effectiveness and public responsibility applied by those providing funding;
  • by improving rapid response capacity, firstly through the assessment of existing capacity (logistics, transport, communications, etc.) and secondly by means of coordination with the actors involved.

Humanitarian operations are to be based on diversified and quality partnerships, including local actors and stakeholders in the field coming from civil society and mandated international organisations. Operations may also involve military and civil protection assets, in line with guidelines on the coordination and use of assets.

International action

The EU contributes to developing collective global capacity to respond to crises. It commits to promoting reforms in the international humanitarian system, led by the United Nations, and in cooperation with other humanitarian actors and donors.

In addition, in view of the escalating need for humanitarian aid, it is essential to increase and to diversity financing and its predictability, flexibility and strategic coordination.

Long-term strategy

In parallel with emergency operations initiated when a crisis occurs, the EU undertakes to work towards:

Key terms
  • Shared competence: in the areas of cooperation and humanitarian aid, the EU has power to implement actions and common policy, but this competence must not have the effect of preventing Member States from exercising their own powers.
  • Humanity: human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, particularly in the weakest.
  • Neutrality: in an armed conflict or a dispute, aid must not favour any section of the population.
  • Impartiality: aid must be provided solely on the basis of the population’s needs, without discrimination between people.
  • Independence: the autonomy of humanitarian aid from political, economic, military or other objectives, its sole purpose being to relieve and prevent populations’ suffering.
Last updated: 16.05.2011
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