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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Capacity Building
© Annet Kyambadde/CARE International - Uganda, 2020
Capacity building

What is it?

Capacity building strengthens the ability of the humanitarian sector to provide aid effectively.

Its goal is to:

  • help organisations to adjust well to the latest developments in a given sector or area
  • improve the quality of response
  • test new approaches or adopt new ways of working
  • scale-up innovation
  • strengthen cooperation and collective response to crises.

Through capacity building, humanitarian organisations share knowledge, expertise and good practices to react better and faster to emergencies. In turn, working in a coordinated and complementary way will help them respond to humanitarian needs effectively and efficiently.

Why is this important?

The capacity of humanitarian organisations to deliver aid is stretched to the limit.

Humanitarian needs remain at an all-time high, primarily due to the resurgence of conflicts and exacerbated by the impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This is compounded by the effects of climate change, environmental degradation, global population growth, economic shocks, and failed governance.

Despite a significant increase in humanitarian funding over the past few years, global needs have grown disproportionately.

The United Nations estimates that in mid-2023, 362 million people required humanitarian assistance, with numbers likely to grow. This is an increase of almost 90 million people from 2022 estimates. Consequently, the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources available globally is increasing.

In this challenging context, humanitarian actors need to constantly adapt in the face of new challenges and better cooperate to maximise their impact on the well-being of those in need.

It includes, for example:

  • developing protocols for the safe sharing of personal data
  • strengthening the responders’ capacity to consider persons with disabilities in their programming
  • making humanitarian assistance, such as shelter or water pumps, environmentally sustainable. 

How are we helping?

The European Commission helps increase the response capacity and shape the governance of the international humanitarian system through the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) funds. In 2023, we allocated €24 million for ERC funds.

The ERC provides seed funding to initiatives that introduce and develop new approaches and ways of working for the benefit of the humanitarian sector.

These initiatives need to make an impact and be viable. Therefore, we aim that every euro spent has the greatest possible impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people.

For 2023, the Commission has identified the following areas in which global capacity interventions are likely to improve humanitarian action.

Innovative financing

It means using humanitarian grants to catalyse, de-risk and draw in additional financing to support investments to address existing humanitarian needs. This is especially relevant in a tougher economic climate, an increasing number of conflicts and record high numbers of people in need

International humanitarian law (IHL)

To support actions of humanitarian partners that improve compliance with IHL by both armed and non-state armed groups. The aim is to protect civilians and their infrastructure, as well as humanitarian and medical workers in armed conflicts.


Localisation means empowering local responders in affected countries to lead and deliver humanitarian aid. The aim is to strengthen the capacity and resources of local organisations to respond to crises and promote long-term sustainability.

Gender-sensitive humanitarian assistance

To respond effectively to various needs, EU humanitarian assistance must take gender and age into account.

Gender-sensitive humanitarian assistance is essential to effective quality programming. Preventing and responding to gender-based violence is a priority for the EU.

Innovative technological approaches to humanitarian logistics

A change in humanitarian logistics can create significant opportunities for increased efficiency and effectiveness. The proper use of logistics data is essential to enable humanitarian actors to take better decisions and foster greater collaboration in finding solutions and approaches.

Forced displacement, including disaster and climate-related displacement

This includes (i) supporting disaster preparedness, research and data collection activities, (ii)  strengthening operational responses to assist forcibly displaced populations, and (iii) strengthening multilateralism to mobilise coordinated global efforts in this area.

Support to the continued adaptation of the humanitarian system

Coordination and leadership are key elements in achieving an efficient and effective humanitarian response. The aims encompass better addressing needs, increasing accountability to crisis-affected people, and strengthening the overall enabling environment for humanitarian aid delivery.

Addressing environmental degradation in humanitarian settings

This consist of protecting the natural environment and reducing the risk posed by environmental degradation to the most vulnerable populations. This also includes our commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of EU humanitarian action while supporting our partners to follow the same path.

Anticipatory action

This is a way to reduce the humanitarian impact of climate change and bolster the resilience of communities, including forcibly displaced groups, in vulnerable and disaster-prone regions.

Last updated: 30/10/2023

Facts & figures

Between 2017 and 2022, the EU has funded over 45 projects under its Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) instrument with more than €40 million.

Under the 2022 Humanitarian Implementation Plan, the EU allocated €24 million for new projects to be funded under the ERC.