Skip to main content
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Capacity building


What is it?

Capacity building strengthens the ability of the humanitarian sector to provide aid effectively. Its goal is to (i) help organisations to adjust well to the latest developments in the sector, (ii) improve the quality of response, (iii) test new approaches or adopt new ways of working, (iv) scale-up innovation, and (v) improve 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?

Humanitarian settings have changed dramatically over the past decades. Some factors have raised new challenges for the humanitarian sector:

  • Protracted conflicts
  • Widespread violations of international humanitarian law
  • Shrinking humanitarian space
  • Increased presence of armed non-state groups
  • Recurrent emergencies caused by climate change and poverty
  • Scarcity of resources for a growing world population
  • Increasing urbanisation
  • High numbers of displaced people.

The capacity of humanitarian organisations to deliver aid via traditional means is stretched to the limit. Even though humanitarian funding has increased significantly over the past few years, global needs have grown disproportionately.

The United Nations estimates that 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. This is an increase of almost 40 million people from 2021 estimates. Thus, the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources available globally is increasing.

Humanitarian organisations, both local and global, need to learn to operate in the face of new challenges and better cooperate to maximise their impact on those in need.

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 2022, we allocated €19.8 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 2022, 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 due to COVID-19 and with an increasing number of conflicts.


This means the responsible use of technology in humanitarian response. The digitalisation helps to make humanitarian response more efficient, accountable and cost-effective. It also engages the skills and technical expertise of the private sector and research communities.

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.

Disaster displacement

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

Support for the Grand Bargain process

The Grand Bargain is a unique agreement between some of the world’s largest donors and humanitarian organisations. It aims to improve the way humanitarian aid is delivered by making it more effective and efficient.

Addressing environmental degradation in humanitarian settings

To protect the natural environment and reduce 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: 20/04/2022

Facts & figures

Capacity building helps the humanitarian sector provide aid effectively.

The Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) provides seed funding to initiatives that:

  • improve the capacity of humanitarian actors
  • develop new approaches in humanitarian assistance delivery

The ERC has supported a variety of initiatives, such as the capacity of humanitarian organisations to:

  • mainstream disability in humanitarian response
  • respond to urban crises
  • increase access to care for survivors of gender-based violence