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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Promoting humanitarian principles (including European Consensus)

Why is this essential?

The principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence are grounded in International Humanitarian Law. All Member States have committed themselves to them by ratifying the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Humanity means that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable.

Neutrality means that humanitarian aid must not favour any side in an armed conflict or other dispute.

Impartiality means that humanitarian aid must be provided solely on the basis of need, without discrimination.

Independence means the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from political, economic, military or other objectives.

Humanitarian principles define what humanitarian aid is: delivering life-saving assistance to those in need without any adverse distinction. They distinguish humanitarian aid from other activities, for example those of political, religious, ideological or military nature. Adherence to the principles helps humanitarian workers carry out their work; it facilitates access and acceptance.

How are we helping?

At the EU level, the principles are enshrined in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, signed in December 2007 by the Council of the EU, the European Parliament and the European Commission. It is the core document that guides the EU humanitarian aid policy with common vision, principles and practical approach ensuring that the actions carried out by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department ECHO follow the key principles and provide humanitarian assistance to those who need it most.