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Towards a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

The adoption of a joint declaration on humanitarian aid aims to improve the response to natural or man-made disasters occurring in the world, through coordinated action by the European Union (EU), its Member States and its partners.

ACT

Communication of 13 June 2007 from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Towards a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid [COM(2007) 317 final - Not yet published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The Commission presents the principles of the future European Union (EU) consensus on humanitarian aid. This joint declaration aims to increase the effectiveness of aid by increasing the complementarity of the EU’s and its Member States’ actions.

The European Union (EU) is the world's leading humanitarian donor, adding together the aid given at both European and national levels. However, it needs to adopt a more strategic approach, notably in the face of the new challenges raised by changes in the crisis landscape, such as:

  • the greater frequency with which humanitarian crises occur, linked to poverty, climate change and competition for access to natural resources;
  • the increasing disregard for or violation of international and humanitarian law;
  • the encroachment of humanitarian space *.

The European Consensus on humanitarian aid must be in-line with the European Consensus for Development.

Create a common vision

Humanitarian aid is based on specific principles and modalities. Therefore, the Commission suggests that the EU ensures the:

  • respect for fundamental humanitarian principles, particularly those of humanity *, neutrality *, impartiality * and independence *;
  • promotion of international law, especially international humanitarian law;
  • coherence, complementarity and effectiveness of policies connected with humanitarian aid (e.g. crisis management and food security), while highlighting their differences and their independence.

The sharing of experience could contribute towards increasing the impact of aid, including through international cooperation. In this context, the EU must confirm its commitment in favour of the initiative on the principles and good practice for humanitarian aid.

Translating principles into practice

Financial humanitarian aid must be assessed with the objective of effectiveness in mind. Thus, the Commission recommends that the EU:

  • commits to adequate provision of humanitarian aid, on the basis of agreed minimum standards of assistance and protection;
  • establishes a common framework for assessing needs and sharing expert analysis;
  • ensures an overall balanced response, particularly with regard to forgotten crises *;

In addition, the participation of all stakeholders concerned is essential for carrying out action. In particular, this concerns European and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations through its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement. To ensure speed and quality in the delivery of humanitarian aid, implementing partners should be selected on the basis of:

  • professionalism, experience and capacity to respond to an identified need;
  • adherence to international standards and guidelines;
  • cost-efficiency (e.g. overheads in proportion to the aid going to recipients);
  • local partnership and context;
  • accountability to aid recipients and European public opinion.

The EU's crisis response capacities need to be increased, specifically by drawing on local resources. The EU also needs to increase its response capacities and help plug capacity gaps at global level, in particular in the fields of transport, communications and logistics.

Humanitarian action may be supported by Member States' civil protection and military resources and assets. In this respect, the EU encourages adherence to UN guidelines on the use of civil defence and military means in natural disasters (Oslo guidelines ) and in complex crises (Military and Civil Defence Assets Directives ).

Reducing the risks caused by natural disasters is another essential component of humanitarian action. In this context, the EU encourages international efforts within the Hyogo Framework for Action, which proposes a global model for reducing the risks associated with natural disasters by 2015.

Lastly, the EU should reinforce the link between disaster relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) based on experiences and lessons learnt, and through cooperation between humanitarian aid actors and development aid actors (especially in situations of complex crisis and state fragility).

Key terms of the act
  • Humanitarian space: The operating environment which humanitarian actors need on the ground in order to have full access to victims, to be able to deliver assistance and to offer protection, without endangering the safety and security of aid workers.
  • Principle of humanity: Humankind shall be treated humanely in all circumstances by saving lives and alleviating suffering, while ensuring respect for the individual.
  • Principle of neutrality: Neutrality means not taking sides in hostilities or engaging at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
  • Principle of impartiality: Provision of humanitarian assistance must be impartial and not based on nationality, race, religion or political point of view.
  • Principle of independence: Humanitarian agencies must formulate and implement their own policies independently of government policies or actions.
  • Forgotten crises: Crises that receive little or no media attention and whose victims receive relatively little or no international assistance.
  • Hyogo Framework for Action: Global blueprint for disaster-risk reduction efforts (horizon: 2015).

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - The mid-term review of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid Action Plan - implementing effective, principled EU humanitarian action [COM(2010) 722 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission identifies the areas which require additional effort for the further implementation of the European Consensus on humanitarian aid. In particular, the partners must strengthen their joint action in terms of planning interventions, food aid, reducing the risks of disasters and assistance with the transition period following on from a disaster.

Last updated: 13.05.2011
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