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European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid


Joint statement on EU humanitarian aid objectives and principles



  • It is an undertaking by the European Union and the EU countries to coordinate their actions on the basis of common objectives and principles for their humanitarian aid interventions.
  • The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid establishes a strategic framework that guides the actions of the EU and the EU countries in delivering effective, quality and coordinated humanitarian assistance.


Humanitarian aid goals

EU humanitarian aid aims to provide needs-based emergency response, to preserve life and to prevent and alleviate human suffering in crisis situations resulting from man-made and natural disasters.

In line with the consensus, the EU’s humanitarian assistance is provided through implementing partners such as the United Nations system, the Red Cross/Crescent Movement and non-governmental organisations.

The EU and the EU countries are collectively the largest donor of international public humanitarian aid in the world. Their actions complement and reinforce each other and are implemented in close coordination with international and local actors.

Humanitarian aid principles

Humanitarian aid is based on the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity*, neutrality*, impartiality* and independence*.

The EU is also committed to comply with the principles of international law, in particular international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law.

While implementation may vary between EU countries, EU donors aim to improve donor practice and comply with the principles and good practices of humanitarian aid, particularly in the context of the good humanitarian donorship initiative, an informal international donor forum and network.

EU humanitarian aid must also be coherent with other policies in order to ensure a smooth transition after a crisis and take into account the gender considerations and diverse needs of local people.

Coordination and coherence of EU aid

The EU supports the coordinating role of the UN and increased global capacity to respond to humanitarian crises.

EU aid operations must be based on:

  • coordination, coherence and complementarity between the actors involved, sharing information, best practice and expertise and strengthening policy-level exchanges, including at international level coordinated by the UN;
  • principles of quality, effectiveness and accountability;
  • various partnerships so as to offer a large response to crises.

EU humanitarian aid must be allocated transparently on the basis of identified needs and people vulnerability.

The consensus establishes when and how civil protection and, exceptionally as a last resort, military assets and capabilities may be used in humanitarian response.

International action

Acknowledging that humanitarian action is a collective responsibility at the international level, the EU contributes to developing collective global capacity to respond to crises, supporting the UN-led reform of the humanitarian system in cooperation with other humanitarian actors and donors.

In addition, in view of the escalating need for humanitarian assistance, it is essential to boost and diversify financing and increase its predictability, flexibility and strategic coordination.

Links with disaster risk reduction and development

In parallel with emergency operations initiated when a crisis occurs, the EU undertakes to work towards reducing risks and vulnerability and preparing people for natural disasters at local, regional and national levels based on the Hyogo framework for action (replaced in March 2015 by the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015-2030).

It also supports transition, early recovery and development, particularly by better linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD).

Humanitarian action at the EU level

The consensus confirms that the EU has comparative advantage and added value in enhancing complementarity between EU humanitarian donors and international donors. This is thanks to the EU’s global expert network, its role ensuring policy coherence and promoting good humanitarian practice, its flexibility to intervene in politically sensitive areas and its ability to facilitate coordination. The European Commission is itself committed to applying the principles and best practices of good donorship in its policies and operations.

The EU adopted an action plan for 2008-2013 that guided the cooperation between the Commission and EU countries based on a quality aid approach. The implementation was reviewed in 2010 by way of a mid-term review and evaluated by means of an independent evaluation in 2014. The evaluation confirmed the validity of the consensus and recommended its implementation under a new framework. The implementation plan adopted in November 2015 will serve as such for 18 months, focussing actions on principled humanitarian action and effectiveness.


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* Humanity: human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable in the population.

* Neutrality: humanitarian aid must not favour any side in an armed conflict or a dispute.

* Impartiality: humanitarian aid must be provided solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations.

* Independence: the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from political, economic, military or other objectives, its sole purpose being to relieve and prevent suffering of victims of humanitarian crises.


Joint Statement by the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission (OJ C 25, 30.1.2008, pp. 1-12)


Commission staff working document: Implementation Plan of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (SWD(2015) 269 final of 27.11.2015)

last update 31.03.2016