The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid outlines the policy framework for the EU when acting in response to humanitarian crises. The Consensus sets out why, how and when the EU acts.
Signed by the Council, European Parliament and European Commission in 2007, the Consensus aims at improving the coherence, effectiveness and quality of the EU's humanitarian response.
Preserving life, preventing and alleviating suffering and helping to maintain human dignity in the face of natural and man-made disasters are the overriding objectives of humanitarian action, as enshrined in the Consensus. In the document, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the fundamental principles of humanitarian aid – neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality – and to the respect of International Humanitarian Law.
Based on the Consensus' provisions, EU countries and institutions agree to work in a coordinated and complementary manner, and support the overall coordinating role of the United Nations. Actions envisaged range from preparedness and disaster risk reduction, emergency response, assistance in protracted crises to early recovery and linking to the work of development partners. The Consensus also sets out the modalities of the use of civil protection capabilities and military assets in emergency response.
From policy to practice
Following the adoption of the Consensus, an Action Plan was adopted for the period 2008–2013 translating the policy provisions into practice.
This has resulted in improved EU humanitarian aid policies and information sharing, and engagement with a number of international best practice initiatives. Also, cooperation with the UN, donors outside the EU, NGOs, communities and, increasingly, with local and regional actors was enhanced. The EU has also been advocating for the respect of International Humanitarian Law and the need to ensure the protection of and access for afflicted populations to life-saving assistance.
The evaluation of the Action Plan, carried out in 2014, confirmed the validity and need to continue this approach.
Based on the results of the evaluation, a new Implementation Plan was elaborated and finalised in November 2015. It serves as a framework for the actions undertaken in the field of humanitarian aid by the European Commission and Member States. The Plan places emphasis on three main common priorities:
- upholding humanitarian principles and International Humanitarian Law,
- a stronger needs-based approach, and
- enhancing coordination and coherence.
These priorities are in line with the Commission's vision for the upcoming discussions on reshaping humanitarian aid within the World Humanitarian Summit process.