Brussels, 13 June 2007
The European Commission has adopted today a Communication paving the way for greater efficiency and coherence in delivering humanitarian aid. The Commission is calling for the European Union to work more closely together on a consensus that would boost its collective response to humanitarian crises. This includes advocating full respect for international humanitarian law, so that aid and aid workers can reach people in need.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the European Union helps hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people on a daily basis. But while the need is great, the job of delivering the aid is getting harder and more dangerous, in an ever-more complex international environment.
More than half of official international humanitarian aid comes from the EU - either through the Commission or through bilateral Member State programmes. The Commission is seeking a consensus affirming that EU aid:
• is founded unequivocally on the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality, and
• must be delivered rapidly and efficiently to crisis victims on the basis of assessed needs.
Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid said: "As Europeans, we have a moral duty to lead the way in helping millions of victims of violent conflicts and natural disasters. Humanitarian action is a key external objective of the European Union: it is time for us to speak up collectively for the humanitarian cause, and against the growing number of violations of international law. People desperately need our help in Darfur, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and many other trouble spots. The impact of our response will be strengthened if we work closely together at EU level to ensure proper access to crisis zones."
Today’s Communication has been adopted after a wide-ranging consultation of humanitarian stakeholders (NGO's, UN bodies and agencies, Red Cross/Crescent) and careful reflection on lessons learned from past crises. This should become the basis for a future European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, built on Europe's long tradition of humanitarian solidarity, and on the principles of good humanitarian donorship.
This would be the first time that:
• The European Union issues a joint document on its humanitarian aid policy (since the adoption of the Humanitarian Aid regulation in 1996)
• The EU as a whole, both the Commission and all Member States, has a comprehensive policy statement on humanitarian aid that underlines our commitment to the fundamental humanitarian principles
• The principles and guidance of the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative of 2003 would be discussed in detail and formally adopted at EU level
• The EU would commit itself to diversity of implementing partners
• Member States and the Commission would discuss concrete steps to improve coordination of humanitarian aid activities
• The Community's added value in humanitarian aid would be formally recognized and steps for further improvement endorsed by Member States and the European Parliament