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 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 its adoption, the Consensus has served as the reference point on the role of humanitarian aid in the EU's broader external action. This is reflected in relevant policy and legal acts adopted at the EU level.
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, non-EU donors, NGOs, communities and, increasingly, with local and regional actors was enhanced. The EU also advocates for the respect of International Humanitarian Law and the need to ensure the protection of and access for afflicted populations to life-saving assistance.
In October 2017, to mark 10 years of the Consensus' adoption all interested parties renewed their commitment to continue working in line with the principles laid out in the Consensus. The Consensus continues to serve as a relevant framework for humanitarian action undertaken by the European Commission and Member States.