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Procedure : 2007/2139(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0372/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0372/2007

Debates :

PV 13/11/2007 - 24
CRE 13/11/2007 - 24

Votes :

PV 14/11/2007 - 3.2
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0508

Texts adopted
DOC 76k
Wednesday, 14 November 2007 - Strasbourg Final edition
The European Union and humanitarian aid
P6_TA(2007)0508A6-0372/2007

European Parliament resolution of 14 November 2007 on a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (2007/2139(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication to the European Parliament and the Council entitled "Towards a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid" (COM(2007)0317),

–   having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the above-mentioned Commission Communication entitled "Report on the results of the consultation on a consensus on European Humanitarian Aid Policy" (SEC(2007)0782),

–   having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the above-mentioned Commission Communication entitled "Report on responses to crises – DRC, Pakistan, Lebanon and Burma/Myanmar" (SEC(2007)0781),

–   having regard to the EC Treaty, and in particular Article 179 thereof,

–   having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the European Council held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2007 setting out the mandate for the Lisbon Intergovernmental Conference,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 of 20 June 1996 concerning humanitarian aid(1) ,

–   having regard to Council Decision 2001/792/EC, Euratom of 23 October 2001 establishing a Community mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions(2) ,

–   having regard to the Evaluation of the European Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) 2000 - 2005 (2006),

–   having regard to the Peer Review of the Development Cooperation Policies and Programmes of the European Community (2007) by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/DAC),

–   having regard to the report by Michel Barnier entitled "For a European civil protection force: europe aid", published in May 2006,

–   having regard to the European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law of 23 December 2005 (IHL)(3) ,

–   having regard to the Joint statement by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on European Union Development Policy: The European Consensus'(4) (the European Consensus on Development),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication entitled 'The European Union and the United Nations: The choice for multilateralism' (COM(2003)0526), calling for a comprehensive strengthening and mainstreaming of EU-UN relations, through systematic policy dialogue, greater cooperation in the field, better crisis management and prevention, and strategic partnerships between the Commission and selected UN organisations,

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948,

–   having regard to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977,

–   having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the optional protocol thereto on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989,

–   having regard to the Food Aid Convention signed in London on 13 April 1999 establishing a Community commitment to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries(5) ,

–   having regard to the Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) endorsed in Stockholm on 17 June 2003,

–   having regard to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes of 1994,

–   having regard to the SPHERE Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, revised in 2004,

–   having regard to the Principles of Partnership of the Global Humanitarian Platform of 12 July 2007,

–   having regard to the Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets to support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Natural Disasters (the Oslo Guidelines), revised on 27 November 2006,

–   having regard to the Guidelines on The Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets To Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies (the MCDA Guidelines) of March 2003,

–   having regard to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA), adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan on 18-22 January 2005,

–   having regard to the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty of December 2001 entitled 'The responsibility to protect',

–   having regard to the report of 1 December 2004 entitled 'A more secure world: our shared responsibility' by the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change,

–   having regard to the report of 21 March 2005 entitled 'In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all' by the Secretary-General of the UN ,

–   having regard to UN General Assembly resolution 60/1 of 24 October 2005 confirming each State's responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and the international community's responsibility to help to protect, as well as committing the international community to discussing and defining the notion of human security,

–   having regard to the Communiqué and Framework for Action of the Fribourg Forum, Switzerland, 15-16 June 2000,

–   having regard to the Humanitarian Response Review, published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in August 2005,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the delivery of humanitarian aid in third countries,

–   having regard to its resolution of 5 February 2002 on the Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on Linking relief, rehabilitation and development – an assessment(6) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 May 2002 on the Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament entitled 'Building an effective partnership with the United Nations in the fields of Development and Humanitarian Affairs'(7) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2003 on the Commission's Annual Report on humanitarian aid 2000(8) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 5 September 2000 on the Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament: Assessment and future of Community humanitarian activities (Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1257/96)(9) ,

–   having regard to its position of 24 October 2006 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing a Community civil protection mechanism (recast)(10) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2005 on the reform of the United Nations(11) ,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6-0372/2007),

The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

1.  Welcomes the above-mentioned Communication entitled 'Towards a European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid' and the initiative to adopt a joint declaration (the Consensus) on the EU's principles, objectives and strategies for the delivery of humanitarian aid in third countries;

2.  Insists that the Consensus needs to be clearer and more specific in order to enhance European humanitarian policy and to ensure that the EU's potential as a humanitarian donor is fully exploited, and believes that the EU's commitment to securing cohesion between humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and development assistance must be reinforced by the Consensus, while acknowledging the distinct nature of the principles applied to each of them;

3.  Considers that the Consensus should clarify how the different assets of the EC and the Member States can best be combined and coordinated, in the light of their respective comparative advantages;

4.  Takes note of the increasing number of different actors involved in humanitarian crisis situations, and believes that the Consensus should provide guidance on and answers to the new risks and implementation and coordination challenges, while reaffirming the EU's commitment to humanitarian principles and IHL; recalls that the EU is the largest humanitarian aid donor in the world; and further believes that the conclusions of the European Council of 21-22 June 2007, following which humanitarian aid has been recognised as an EU policy area in its own right in the draft Treaty of Lisbon, are a welcome recognition of that fact;

Part I: The EU Vision of Humanitarian Aid
(a) Common objectives

5.  Takes the view that the Consensus should contain a detailed definition of the objectives of EU humanitarian aid, based on the above-mentioned Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 and on the above-mentioned Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship (GHD), and that amongst these objectives particular attention should be paid to the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children, the disabled, the elderly and ethnic minorities, including refugees fleeing conflict zones;

6.  Stresses that effective humanitarian action, including emergency food aid, should be situation- and needs-based, result-oriented and driven by the principle that saving livelihoods saves lives; stresses further that humanitarian aid is not a crisis management tool and should be allocated in transparent fashion solely on the basis of real needs and independently of all political considerations; stresses in particular that delivery of food aid must try by all means to avoid any harmful effect on local markets or future dependence and should contribute to long-term food security; supports international efforts to reform the Food Aid Convention to ensure respect for these principles;

7.  Stresses that humanitarian aid must take account of self-development and self-sufficiency and must not be geared towards making the countries or regions to which the aid is given too dependent on further aid or external assistance;

(b) Common values, principles and good practice

8.  Stresses that the EU's humanitarian action should be guided by the humanitarian principles enshrined in the Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship (GHD):

   - the principle of humanity, meaning the centrality of saving human lives and alleviating suffering wherever it is found;
   - the principle of impartiality, meaning the implementation of actions solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations;
   - the principle of neutrality, meaning that humanitarian action must not favour any side in an armed conflict or other dispute where such action is carried out; and
   - the principle of independence, meaning the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented;
In addition to which, humanitarian action should be implemented in accordance with two priorities:
   - immediacy, meaning a stronger emphasis on the elimination of all unreasonable delays in the supply of humanitarian aid and on questioning any delays when appropriate;
   - effectiveness, meaning that there is a clear measurability of output against which democratic accountability can be properly directed; and
considers that, in view of its political weight and influence as the largest international donor, the EU should consistently promote these principles in order to ensure access to crisis-affected populations and respect for humanitarian space;

9.  Welcomes the Commission's initiative to launch a Good Humanitarian Partnership, enhancing global humanitarian reform by bringing together donors, implementing partners and beneficiaries in a joint platform and the adoption by the EU in 2005 of operational guidelines on the promotion of respect for IHL; wishes to see the EU play a leading role in monitoring the defence, promotion, dissemination and enforcement of respect for IHL, including by non-State actors, in order to preserve the humanitarian space; wishes to see all the Member States which have not yet done so subscribe without reservation to the above-mentioned Principles and Good Practice of Humanitarian Donorship (GHD); stresses the need for these principles to be translated into practice and for their observance to be assessed on a regular (biennial) basis by the EU institutions and Parliament's standing rapporteur on humanitarian aid;

10.  Considers that more attention should be paid to the safety and protection of aid workers, who regularly have to venture into dangerous areas; deplores the fact that they are far too frequently the victims of senseless violence, imprisonment or hostage-taking; roundly condemns any action taken against aid workers;

11.  Notes the recognition of the concept of the 'responsibility to protect' in the above-mentioned UN Resolution 60/1 in response to the increase in violations of IHL and human rights and to the powerlessness or unwillingness of governments to protect their own citizens; recalls that humanitarian aid is one of the ways in which the international community can contribute to the protection of threatened peoples and stresses the EU's concern not to remain inactive in the face of such violations; calls for a thorough political debate in the Member States and EU institutions on the right, or indeed the duty, of intervention in cases of serious violation of IHL and/or human rights, taking also into account the conclusions and recommendations of the above-mentioned Report of December 2001 by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty on "The responsibility to protect";

12.  Believes that the EU should develop initiatives to make the concept of 'responsibility to protect' a reality, while giving precedence to preventive action, civilian means and support for third-country governments in fulfilling their obligations to protect their populations; stresses that coercive measures, including military intervention, may only be used as a last resort and strictly in accordance with international law; in particular, reiterates that, when considering the use of force, the Security Council should always take into account the five criteria of legitimacy proposed by the above-mentioned report of 21 March 2005 by the UN Secretary-General and supported by Parliament: seriousness of threat, proper purpose, last resort, proportional means and a reasonable chance of success; agrees that the principles relating to the use of force and its authorisation should be laid down in a resolution of the Security Council;

Part II: Translating Principles into Practice: a common framework for EU Humanitarian Aid
(a) EU coordination, coherence and complementarity

13.  Considers that the Consensus should enshrine the principles of coordination, policy coherence, complementarity and harmonisation of procedures among the Member States, as already stated in the above-mentioned European Consensus on Development, and that the Community should make full use of Article 10 of the above-mentioned Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/96 and exploit the capabilities of DG ECHO in its federating role; stresses, nevertheless, that EU coordination mechanisms must reinforce the international coordination efforts of the United Nations, particularly those of OCHA rather than duplicate them, and include national and local authorities; calls on the EU to establish an EU humanitarian aid donors' atlas, similar to the exercise undertaken for EU development aid;

14.  Welcomes the recognition in the Presidency conclusions of the European Council held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2007 of the need for humanitarian aid policy to be fully recognised as an EU policy in its own right, and considers therefore that the Community and the Member States should foster strategic policy discussion of humanitarian action in an adequate Council forum through the creation of a specific Council Working Group (e.g. a COHUMA, i.e. a Council Working Group on Humanitarian Aid), which will allow cohesive methods ensuring swift and consistent action to be drawn up;

(b) Providing adequate and effective aid

15.  Considers that the Consensus should include a strong commitment by the EU to adequate provision of humanitarian aid as well as to adequate predictability and flexibility in funding, through adequate annual up-front budgetary provisions; stresses that the EU should prioritise those humanitarian crises which are underfunded, neglected or forgotten and that innovative mechanisms should be explored to better quantify the gap between needs and existing funds and to ensure that global humanitarian needs are met;

16.  Considers that the EU should clearly position itself in the global humanitarian reform process, and in particular to support the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as a useful supplement to a range of available financing instruments, where this represents additional financing that does not displace support to other humanitarian operations and partners, to welcome the 'clusters approach' and to promote the inclusiveness of a broad range of humanitarian actors;

17.  Welcomes the Commission's proposal to establish an EU common framework for the assessment of needs and sharing of expert analysis; recalls that the EU should give preference to local and regional sourcing whenever possible;

18.  Emphasises that in emergency situations, and especially in the case of emergencies caused by natural disasters, the first forty-eight hours are crucial in order to save lives, and that the international community has demonstrated that its immediate response is not efficient enough; considers that the EU should meet this challenge, on the one hand, by strengthening local prevention, preparedness and response capacity and, on the other , by improving coordination, early warning mechanisms and adequate pre-positioning of material and stocks at international level; calls on the EU to support and complement international efforts led by OCHA and the UN to strengthen rapid response capabilities, including instant access to funding as well as stand-by teams for emergency operations;

19.  Considers that the EU should invest more in understanding and monitoring the vulnerability factors of the population; calls in particular on the EU to ensure that in all humanitarian operations emergency health needs are met, in particular as regards reproductive health, in line with the respective SPHERE standards;

20.  Supports the efforts by the International Federation and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to identify problems and make recommendations in the field of International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles (IDRL), and looks forward to the results of the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to be held in November 2007;

(c) Diversity and quality in partnership

21.  Welcomes the Commission's proposals to underline the EU's support for a plurality of implementing partners, in particular NGOs, the UN and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and supports its proposed criteria for partner selection; calls on the Commission to help implementing agencies from the new Member States (the EU-12, i.e., the ten new Member States, which acceded to the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania, which acceded to the EU in 2007) become fully integrated into humanitarian aid activities; considers that the Consensus should recognise and further define the different roles, mandates and comparative advantages of the various humanitarian actors, in order to avoid a conflict of mandates and competition for resources among them, and that the EU should support capacity-building within the humanitarian community, with particular attention to local and regional capacity; believes that special attention should be given to the role of NGOs, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and civil society actors, both from the South and the North, not only in the delivery of aid, but also in developing policies that reflect the real needs and concerns of local partners in the South and in gaining the support of European citizens;

22.  Believes that the EU should develop strategies to reach out to non-traditional donors whose funding is often earmarked and/or conditional, with the aim of promoting a model of needs-based aid, the principles of IHL and the concept of partnership; stresses however that these new sources of funding must not result in a reduction in the funds coming from the EU Member States and the Commission;

23.  Considers that EU humanitarian aid should be implemented via humanitarian organisations which fully adhere to good practice and are committed to promoting accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in implementing humanitarian action;

(d) Effectiveness, quality and accountability

24.  Believes that accountability to disaster-affected communities as primary beneficiaries lies at the heart of any evaluation of humanitarian aid effectiveness, and that the Consensus should duly reflect this principle; considers in particular that the EU should encourage voluntary accountability initiatives carried out by NGOs;

25.  Considers that the EU should promote the use of Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidelines and principles on humanitarian activities, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the 1994 Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief and the Humanitarian Charter (SPHERE);

(e) Use of civil protection and military assets and capabilities outside the territory of the EU

26.  Reaffirms that EU civil protection and military assets and capabilities must be deployed in a way which complements and supports the work of humanitarian organisations and limited to those cases or areas where they can provide real added value, and after a thorough prior analysis of the situation;

27.  Considers that the EU should clearly define and ensure respect for the roles and mandates of the civil protection and military actors in humanitarian operations, particularly in conflict situations where impartiality and independence are crucial to guarantee safe access to disaster victims and the efficient delivery of humanitarian aid;

28.  Believes that the EU should commit itself to actively advocate the application of the MCDA and Oslo Guidelines by all actors involved in humanitarian operations and to ensure that the main principles contained therein are not weakened;

29.  Considers that, in accordance with international guidelines, recourse to State-owned civil protection assets in complex emergencies should be the exception, while military assets and capabilities in support of humanitarian operations should be used only as a 'last resort', and, in both cases, always under the guidance of UN humanitarian organisations and according to the principle of conflict sensitivity;

(f) Promoting disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness

30.  Notes the growing number and frequency of natural disasters and their devastating impact; recognises as well the increasing difficulty of distinguishing natural from man-made disasters; acknowledges that risks are determined just as much by human activity and lack of planning as by natural hazards; calls for a time-bound strategy to mainstream Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into all EU development and humanitarian aid, guided by the HFA; recognises that without DRR mainstreaming, development interventions bear the risk of inadvertently increasing vulnerability to disasters;

31.  Notes the immense future challenge of climate change, in the form of extreme weather conditions and dwindling natural resources, with serious security and development implications, ranging from increased vulnerability of the poor, violent conflicts over diminishing natural resources, as well as large-scale migration flows; underlines the threats imposed by climate change to poverty reduction and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and calls for the integration of DRR and adaptation measures into poverty reduction strategies (PRSPs or Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers); emphasises that in order to be effective, DRR interventions aimed at reducing the causes of vulnerability must have significant overlaps with climate change mitigation and adaptation;

32.  Stresses that DRR strategies, based on the HFA, should support action by local communities and authorities in a long-term approach to reducing vulnerability to disasters, as suggested by the experience of the funding mechanism and disaster preparedness programme of DG-ECHO (DIPECHO);

33.  Calls on the EU to allocate at least 10 per cent of additional new funding to humanitarian assistance budgets for reducing disaster risks and to significantly increase resources for DRR within development aid budgets; insists on the need to change in the medium and long term the approach of international humanitarian aid to a marked reinforcement of DRR;

(g) Reinforcing the link to other aid instruments

34.  Calls on the EU, in collaboration with the international humanitarian actors, to develop guidelines aimed at reinforcing the link between emergency relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD), in order to avoid potential gaps between the emergency relief response and the rehabilitation and development phases, taking as a basis best practice and lessons learnt; considers that the EU should base this approach on the 'do no harm' principles and the 10 'build back better' principles; stresses the objective of filling the gap between humanitarian aid and development assistance by making best use of the full range of EU funding instruments;

35.  Recognises further that knowledge and awareness of the links between humanitarian aid and development is lacking both among development workers and among humanitarian aid staff; calls on the EU to prioritise staff training programmes in this area;

36.  Stresses the need to clarify the relations between activities supported by the Commission via the stability instrument for crisis prevention, management and resolution (such as disarmament, demobilisation, mine clearance, reintegration of displaced populations/refugees, etc.), and the concomitant activities carried out by DG ECHO in line with its mandate and with humanitarian principles;

(h) Implementation of the Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

37.  Calls for the inclusion in the Consensus of a broad and concrete road map for its implementation, including timelines for major projects and initiatives to be undertaken by all EU donors over the next five years;

38.  Calls for a regular assessment of the implementation and progress of the Consensus, involving Parliament fully and on an equal footing with the other institutions in this exercise; calls for the establishment of an appropriate interinstitutional structure and a structured dialogue with Parliament in this area;

o
o   o

39.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 163, 2.7.1996, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 297, 15.11.2001, p. 7.
(3) OJ C 327, 23.12.2005, p. 4.
(4) OJ C 46, 24.2.2006, p. 1.
(5) Council Decision 2000/421/EC of 13 June 2000 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Food Aid Convention 1999 (OJ L 163, 4.7.2000, p. 37).
(6) OJ C 284 E, 21.11.2002, p. 108.
(7) OJ C 180 E, 31.7.2003, p. 538.
(8) OJ C 38 E, 12.2.2004, p. 85.
(9) OJ C 135, 7.5.2001, p. 72.
(10) OJ C 313 E, 20.12.2006, p. 100.
(11) OJ C 124 E, 25.5.2006, p.549.

Last updated: 28 August 2008Legal notice