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Brussels, 28 October 2013
Partners in solidarity: support of the European Commission for the International Committee of the Red Cross
Hands-on solidarity and compassion are the most effective and self-sustaining antidotes to the impact of conflicts and the suffering they create. Since its birth 150 years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has stood as a global symbol of this compassion and solidarity.
A champion of peace itself, the European Union shares with the ICRC the same strong commitment and values and the honour of being recognised with the Nobel Prize for Peace. For more than 30 years now the European Commission has leaned in with financial, political and policy support to The Red Cross's family's work in the service of humanity.
The European Union – the Commission and Member States – is one of the most important contributors to ICRC and the world's leading aid donor. Experts of the European Commission work together across the world with the humanitarian personnel of the ICRC, the national societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and the International Federation of the Red Cross to save lives, reduce suffering and preserve human dignity. The Commission is also an active advocate for the respect of humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law in every conflict zone where they are at risk.
The European Commission has supported the life-saving work of ICRC in some of the largest crises of the last decades. Since 2008, the Commission's funding to the activities of the ICRC exceeds €400 million.
In the 1990s, the two organisations worked together to support for the victims of the crises in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Lebanon, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and many others. In more recent years, the Commission has supported the ICRC activities after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the floods in Pakistan in 2010, the South East Asia tsunami in 2004 and the 2011 drought and hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa and has worked with ICRC to address the world's "forgotten crises" such as the on-going humanitarian disaster in the Central African Republic.
The Commission is a member of the ICRC Donor Support Group, together with other major contributors. In 2012, the ICRC was one of the key partners through which the Commission delivered the majority of its humanitarian aid to people in need around the world. Last year, the Commission channelled €71.4 million of humanitarian funding through the ICRC– aid that went to support food assistance, health and medical services and protection and other forms of life-saving assistance in many of the most crisis-hit places such as Yemen, Sudan and Iraq.
So far in 2013, the Commission has allocated €62.4 million to the ICRC. Together, we are working to assist the victims of the war in Syria, the Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, the victims of drought and conflict in Somalia, and those suffering from conflict and crises in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia and Mali. For example, the Commission is funding ICRC's operations inside Syria with €10 million - support that enables ICRC to work in some of the worst-affected parts of the country, including Homs and Aleppo and to provide essential medication, medical equipment, healthcare and protection. In Lebanon, the Commission and the ICRC are helping refugees from the Syrian war and host communities with €2.5 million - indispensable aid for food assistance and emergency health care.
In Mauritania, the Commission and the ICRC have been active since 2007 on the treatment of severe malnutrition. The partnership ensures care for thousands of children and pregnant and lactating women in the region. Thanks to these activities within 27 health facilities, children suffering from malnutrition can be saved because they are screened and treated on time.
In Iraq, the Commission has supported ICRC in implementing protection as well as water and sanitation projects reaching over 1 million beneficiaries in 2013.
Some ICRC operations can also be financed with development aid from the European Commission. In 2000-2007 EuropeAid (the development department of the Commission) provided almost €50 million to the ICRC, to improve the livelihoods of those who need it the most, in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP).
The operational abilities of the ICRC are impressive on all counts: medical care, food distribution, bringing water, sanitation, livelihood support, visits to detainees, restoring contact between people separated by violence or disasters. But equally important are the values ICRC embodies: its dedication to International Humanitarian Law and its adherence to the principles of neutrality and impartiality. Thanks to these principles, ICRC is able to work even in places where no other relief agencies are allowed, such as Al-Shabbab - controlled parts of Somalia or disputed territories in Yemen.
The Commission is a long-standing advocate for the respect of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles. This is a policy priority for the EU and the Commission supports the ICRC and other humanitarian organisations in their endeavours to preserve and protect the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.
Every year, the Commission observes World Humanitarian Day, raising awareness about the growing dangers faced by humanitarian workers around the world. The Red Cross and Red Crescent have suffered the brunt of this trend: in Syria, for example, 22 Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have been killed, alongside 11 UN staff members. Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response, has repeatedly called for the respect of international humanitarian law in this crisis and has appealed to all parties of the Syrian conflict to spare civilians and humanitarian workers and to allow the access of relief aid to all parts of the country where it is needed. Similar appeals have been made on behalf of the European Commission in other recent crises where humanitarian principles have been violated, including the conflict in Libya and the emergencies in Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d'Ivoire.
Currently, the Commission is running a joint campaign with ICRC under the motto "Healthcare in Danger", aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties and hardship experienced by medics in conflict and the life-threatening implications for the people who need their support.