In recent years, humanitarian aid has changed significantly, reflecting, among other things, the changing character of conflicts. Nowadays, these are more often fought inside countries by irregular forces. The number of internally displaced people continues to increase, international humanitarian law is often neglected by warring parties and there are more attacks on relief workers. Natural disasters also tend to occur more frequently and are more devastating in their effects - partly as a result of climate change. In parallel to this, there are more and new actors engaged in providing humanitarian assistance, with different agendas and modus operandi, further increasing the need for coordination.
Against this background of a more complex and difficult humanitarian environment, an international reform effort, led by the United Nations, is underway to make the global humanitarian aid effort more effective. As the world's largest international humanitarian aid donor, the European Union (Member States and the European Commission together), has a particular responsibility in spearheading this international endeavour.
In December 2006, the Commission launched a wide-ranging consultation of Member States and humanitarian organisations on a proposed EU Consensus on humanitarian aid that would deal with the main issues confronting donor and implementing organisations. The objective was to provide groundwork for a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament. This extensive consultation process of the EC's humanitarian partners and Member States revealed considerable consensus on the challenges faced by humanitarians and on the need for a clear EU stance on these.
The outcome of this process was a joint statement entitled "The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid" signed in December 2007 by the three European Institutions (Council, Parliament and Commission). The Consensus sets out the values, guiding principles and policy scope of EU humanitarian aid, and strengthens the EU's capacity to help people suffering in crisis zones across the globe.
The Statement on the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid was approved by Council on 19 November and the European Parliament on 29 November and has been signed by the Presidents of the Commission, Council and European Parliament on 18 December 2007.