The European Consensus on humanitarian aid


In recent years, the operational framework for humanitarian aid has changed significantly, particularly reflecting the changing nature of conflicts. Nowadays, there are more civil wars led by irregular forces. The number of people displaced has continued to increase, international humanitarian law is often violated by the warring parties and humanitarian aid workers are more targeted. Natural disasters also tend to occur more frequently and their effects are more devastating - partly as a result of climate change. In parallel, there are more and new actors committed to providing humanitarian aid, with different agendas and modus operandi, increasing the need for coordination.

In this more complex and difficult humanitarian environment, an international reform effort is underway, led by the United Nations, to make humanitarian aid efforts generally more effective. As the largest donor of humanitarian aid on a global level, the European Union (Member States and the European Commission) has a special responsibility to lead this international effort.

In December 2006, the Commission launched an extensive consultation with Member States and humanitarian organisations related to a consensus proposed by the EU on humanitarian aid addressing the key issues faced by donors as well as specialist organisations. The objective was to provide a specific document for a Communication to the Council and to the European Parliament. The extensive consultation process with EC partners and Member States revealed a broad consensus on the challenges facing humanitarian organisations and on the need for a clear position on the latter from the EU.

The result of this process was established in the form of a joint declaration entitled “The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid”, signed in December 2007 by the three European institutions (the Council, the Parliament and the Commission). This declaration confirms the values, basic principles and political scope of European humanitarian aid and reinforces the EU’s capacity to help people suffering in crisis areas around the world.

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