International law defines the global framework for the protection of populations, it includes human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law, which define the obligations of States and warring parties to provide assistance to civilians, as well as to prevent and refrain from behaviour that violates human rights.
Protection is embedded in ECHO's mandate as defined by the European Council's Humanitarian Regulation (1996) and confirmed by the European Consensus on humanitarian aid (2007). Its objective is to reduce physical and psychological insecurity for persons and groups under threat. When providing general assistance, humanitarian actors must ensure that their actions do not undermine protection, nor exacerbate existing inequalities (do-no-harm principle).
Protection is not a matter of concern for humanitarian actors alone. It implies a much longer timeframe and financial means than could possibly be afforded by humanitarian budgets, and these multiple facets require multiple responses.
The 2009 funding guidelines for humanitarian protection activities define the framework in which DG ECHO may support protection activities, including the type of partners and
the kind of activities it may finance. DG ECHO supports non-structural activities aimed at reducing the risk, and mitigating the impact of human-generated violence, coercion, deprivation and abuse of vulnerable individuals or groups in the context of humanitarian crises. The term "structural" refers to a long term process of building or strengthening of institutions.