The number of natural and man-made disasters in the world has significantly increased in recent years and this trend is likely to continue. Humanitarian organisations need well-prepared and trained people to help communities struck by crises.
Many Europeans are eager to give their practical help where it is most needed, and the EU Aid Volunteers initiative will give them the opportunity to do so.
The EU Aid Volunteers initiative brings together volunteers and organisations from different countries, providing practical support and establishing European standards on volunteering. It complements existing volunteer schemes in Europe, many of which have a national focus.
A number of pilot projects have been run by the European Commission's partners to gain real experience during the preparation of the EU Aid Volunteers initiative, a programme which will run from 2014 to 2020.
More than 18 000 citizens are expected to take part in the programme, contributing to humanitarian work and expressing their solidarity by helping people caught up in crises.
The EU Aid Volunteers initiative will:
- Offer Europeans opportunities to show solidarity with those who most need it,
- Provide professional support by well-prepared volunteers to people in need,
- Benefit local organisations with capacity-building measures.
Trained volunteers will be deployed as EU Aid Volunteers in humanitarian projects worldwide starting from 2015. Where needed, their training will include office-based experience in a European humanitarian organisation.
A network of volunteers will be established to allow them to interact with and support each other before, during and after deployment.
The initiative will also offer online volunteering opportunities for people both inside and outside Europe, to give support to people already in the field. It will also provide capacity building for local staff and volunteers of organisations in countries hit by disasters where the EU Aid Volunteers will work.
Anyone from an EU Member State, EFTA countries, EU enlargement countries and partner countries in the European Neighbourhood Policy can take part in the programme.
The funding for the EU Aid Volunteers initiative in the period 2014-2020 is €147.9 million.
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has launched a number of pilot projects to prepare for the launch of the EU Aid Volunteers initiative, to establish best practices for both volunteers and organisations and learn from practical experience.
The first round of the pilot projects began in 2011, including a project run by a consortium led by Save the Children UK, and another by the French Red Cross. A second round of pilot projects in 2012 was run by VSO, France Volontaires, ADICE, ICCO, the German Red Cross and Save the Children. Over 200 volunteers have been deployed in these eight pilot projects.
The third and last round of pilot projects began in summer 2013. This is led by a consortium of humanitarian organisations involving VSO , Save the Children , Solidaridad Internacional and the Italian Civil Protection Agency .