Boosting humanitarian aid policy, setting up new response capacity

The EU scales up its urgent relief efforts, closely delivering together with development and peace-building actors to tackle the root causes of crisis

The EU is the world's leading humanitarian donor, and together with its Member States accounting for 36% of global humanitarian assistance. To respond to the sharply increasing humanitarian needs exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU executive proposed to strengthen the European Union's global humanitarian impact.

In its Communication, adopted on Wednesday, the Commission proposes a series of key actions aimed at accelerating the delivery of humanitarian assistance by broadening the resource base, fostering a more enabling environment for humanitarian partners and addressing the root causes of crises within the framework of the ‘Team Europe’ approach. It places emphasis on a renewed international humanitarian law and also aims to tackle the dramatic humanitarian consequences of climate change.

Today, the average humanitarian crisis lasts more than 9 years, some even longer, High Representative/Vice President, Josep Borrell, stated noting that many risk being 'forgotten' such as Yemen or Syria, “but the EU does not forget”.

According to him, humanitarian aid is one of the most tangible examples of the EU's external action and proof of our solidarity.

“Respect for International Humanitarian Law must be at the heart of our foreign policy more than ever to support principled humanitarian action and to protect civilians as well as the humanitarian workers who risk their lives to protect them around the world,” HR Borrell outlined.

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, who proposed the Communication, said that in a world where the footprint of crises is expanding rapidly and the principles of humanitarian aid are being challenged as rarely before, the EU's global responsibility as a humanitarian actor has never been more important.

This comes regrettably as needs rise to an all-time high but the global donor base remains disturbingly narrow, he underlined  adding that the EU need to deliver better, by boosting the efficiency and impact of its humanitarian action.

He emphasised that the EU also need to be able to react with full force as soon as crises emerge. This renewed strategic outlook spells out how the EU can step up to help those most in need and show leadership at a time when the delivery of principled aid is acutely needed, he specified.

So as to intervene directly in humanitarian crises, when traditional humanitarian delivery mechanisms via EU partners or their capacities may be ineffective or insufficient, the plans to build a new European Humanitarian Response Capacity.

Its objectives is to facilitate logistics including transport, enabling the pooling of resources and facilitating their deployment in the field.

It will provide logistical assessments, support for initial deployment and procurement, stockpiling, transporting and/or distributing relief items, including Covid-19 vaccines and their delivery in fragile countries.

This work will be carried in coordination and complementarity with the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, relying on the operational support of the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre.

The EU will  put compliance with international humanitarian law even more firmly at the heart of EU external action to protect civilian populations as attacks by belligerents against civilians, hospitals and schools in violation of international humanitarian law are increasing. In 2019, 277 attacks against humanitarian aid workers, with 125 killed, were reported.

To respond to it, the EU will consistently monitor law violations and reinforce due diligence across all EU external instruments. It will continue ensuring that international humanitarian law is fully reflected in EU sanctions policy including through the consistent inclusion of humanitarian exceptions in EU sanction regimes.

Humanitarian aid on its own cannot tackle the complex underlying drivers of conflicts and other crises, but the EU will scale up its urgent relief efforts by closely delivering together with development and peace-building actors tackling the root causes of crisis and promoting long-term solutions for humanitarian emergencies.

The newest Eurobarometer survey shows clear support for EU humanitarian action, with 91% of respondents expressing positive opinions on EU-funded humanitarian aid activities. Almost half of all respondents believe that the EU should sustain existing levels of support for humanitarian aid, whilst four in every ten individuals consider that funding should increase.

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