The objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect human dignity, both during, and in the aftermath of man-made crises and natural disasters. Humanitarian interventions also work to reduce risks and strengthen preparedness to lessen the impacts disasters when they arise. Today’s humanitarian needs are rapidly growing and changing, due to factors like protracted armed conflicts, large scale displacements, chronic vulnerability, and increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters. With the gap between the level of global humanitarian needs and the resources available to meet them wider than ever before, enhancing the efficiency of humanitarian action is ever-more critical.
Rooted in International law, the Humanitarian Principles – neutrality, independence, impartiality, and humanity – are an essential tool for effective humanitarian aid. They are instrumental in building trust with local communities and authorities, and help to ensure access necessary to impactful humanitarian action. The EU’s humanitarian assistance should therefore solely be guided by the needs of victims of disasters, in line with the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid adopted in 2007. While the principles are firmly embedded in the Consensus, they require constant reaffirmation in today’s world.
From local actors to global network
In their auxiliary role, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provide emergency relief in armed conflict, natural disasters, and other emergencies. They also play a key role in disseminating International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian principles. Local actors, like National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, ultimately drive the effectiveness and quality of humanitarian responses. They have the local knowledge, relationships and access that enable them to be fast, impactful and cost-effective responders before, during and after crises hit. They are often in the strongest position to save lives and promote dignity.
When a disaster overwhelms local capacities, and upon request from the host National Society, our members – National Red Cross Societies in the EU and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – often pool their assets and resources to support the national response. By leveraging the complementary roles and strengths of local, national and international humanitarian actors, the Red Cross Red Crescent extends the reach and effectiveness of its collective action.
The central role of local actors in humanitarian response is widely recognised. However, too often domestic actors are afforded little space in decision-making fora, and only receive a negligible proportion of international humanitarian funding. Shifting towards greater localisation of aid and equal partnerships will be crucial in the years to come. The Red Cross Red Crescent is constructively engaged in discussions with donors, governments, and organisations working in the humanitarian sector to bring the localisation agenda forward and improve outcomes for affected people.
The Red Cross EU Office and Humanitarian Aid
Amongst the world's leading humanitarian aid donors, the EU and its Member States provide humanitarian aid in more than 80 countries. The EU thus plays a key role in terms of funding, but also in setting the global humanitarian agenda. In line with our Fundamental Principles, we monitor developments in EU humanitarian aid policy and advocate a principled approach. We are in close dialogue with different EU institutions on disaster management issues, as well as liaising with Brussels-based humanitarian organisations, including UN agencies, and NGOs.
Our role is to support our members in their relations with the EU institutions, especially the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). We help to ensure prompt exchange of information on humanitarian needs and possible humanitarian responses. We also assist our members to explore possibilities to implement ECHO funding decisions, and faciliate the coordination of joint proposals and initatives.