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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

© UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid outlines the policy framework for the EU when acting in response to humanitarian crises. The Consensus sets out why, how, and when the EU acts.

Signed by the Council, European Parliament and European Commission in 2007, the Consensus aims at improving the coherence, effectiveness, and quality of the EU's humanitarian response.

The overriding objectives of humanitarian action, as enshrined in the Consensus, are:

  • Preserving life
  • Preventing and alleviating suffering
  • Helping to maintain human dignity in the face of natural hazards and human-induced disasters.

In the document, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the fundamental principles of humanitarian aid – neutrality, humanity, independence, and impartiality – and to the respect of international humanitarian law.

Based on the Consensus' provisions, EU countries and institutions agree to work in a coordinated and complementary manner and support the overall coordinating role of the United Nations.

Actions range from preparedness and disaster risk reduction, emergency response, assistance in protracted crises to early recovery and linking to the work of development partners.

The Consensus also sets out the modalities of using civil protection capabilities and military assets in emergency response.

You can read the Joint Statement – European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid in the EU languages  and Arabic.

From policy to practice

Following its adoption, the Consensus has served as the reference point on the role of humanitarian aid in the EU's broader external action. This is reflected in relevant policy and legal acts adopted at the EU level.

This has resulted in improved EU humanitarian aid policies, information sharing, and engagement with several international best practice initiatives. Also, cooperation with the UN, non-EU donors, NGOs, communities and, increasingly, with local and regional actors was enhanced.

The EU also advocates for the respect of international humanitarian law and the need to ensure the protection of and access for afflicted populations to life-saving assistance.

In October 2017, to mark 10 years of the Consensus' adoption all interested parties renewed their commitment to continue working in line with the principles laid out in the Consensus.

The Consensus continues to serve as a relevant framework for humanitarian action undertaken by the European Commission and Member States.

In March 2021, the Commission’s Communication on the EU’s humanitarian action reaffirmed the central role of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid as the reference framework for the EU’s humanitarian action.

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