In line with the four principles grounded in International Humanitarian Law, EU humanitarian aid:
- addresses human suffering, with particular attention to the most vulnerable groups of people, while respecting the dignity of all victims (humanity);
- does not favour any side in a conflict (neutrality);
- is provided solely on the basis of needs, without any kind of discrimination (impartiality);
- is independent of any agenda, be it political, economic, military or else (independence).
EU humanitarian action also embodies the principle of solidarity, as laid down in the Lisbon Treaty, which states that the EU will provide assistance, relief and protection for victims of natural and man-made disasters and encourage cooperation between Member States to this aim (Lisbon Treaty, articles 196 and 214).
Civil protection and humanitarian aid are complementary. In the case of humanitarian aid, the European Commission Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department shares competence with EU Member States and together they are one of the leading global humanitarian donors. When it comes to civil protection, the EU assumes a supporting role, coordinating voluntary contributions of in-kind assistance from countries participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
The EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has been providing assistance to people in need since 1992. Its annual humanitarian budget is just over €1 billion, it helps over 120 million people each year.