The European Union is the world's greatest donor of humanitarian assistance, but is it as effective as it could be? The European Parliament organised a public hearing on 3 September on how to better link emergency aid and long-term development in order to better assist countries in need.
French Christian Democrat Michèle Striffler, vice-chair of the EP's development committee, led the panel discussion on lessons learnt from recent crises such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. She said: "It's fundamental to link the short-term aid measures to the long-term development programmes in order to create synergies and to respond sustainably to crisis situations."
François Grünewald, executive director of Groupe URD, an institute that focuses on humanitarian action and post-crisis reconstruction, said: "We need to bring together the know-how on both sides, whilst respecting the principles that apply to all crises." He added it was important to be flexible as every situation is different.
Matthias Schmale, under secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said it was important to work closely with the authorities of the country involved. "It is the host government that carries a responsibility for protecting its own citizens. I think over the last 20, 30 years we have focused too much on the international actors."
Amadou Alahouri, high commissioner of Niger for the "3N" Initiative (Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens), commented: "It is extremely important to focus on the local communities. We are building capacity and investing into these communities and that's why we conceived of a strategy that has to at all levels create a minimum capacity for resilience."
Nirj Deva, a British MEP who is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, called attention to the positive role the military could play in relief efforts, such as shown in natural disasters in Sri Lanka and Pakistan in recent years.
Charles Goerens, a Liberal-Democrat MEP from Luxembourg, said: "We are not stressing sufficiently the role which can be played by decentralised players in our own countries. It is clear to me there is a clear demand and willingness to act on the part of local authorities and NGOs, and I certainly think they have a contribution to make."