The European Union together with its Member States is the world’s leading humanitarian donor, providing around 36% of the global humanitarian assistance. As highlighted in the new EU Communication on the EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles, humanitarian aid is a key pillar of the EU’s external action and an important part of its ability to project its values globally.

  • Image
    HR/VP visit to Ethiopia

    EU High Representative Vice president Josep Borrell visiting a refugee camp in Ethiopia. © European Union, 2021

EU Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Response

In an increasingly challenging world, marked by the exacerbation of conflicts, climate change, environmental degradation and the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU promotes integrated responses to humanitarian crises, often protracted and needing long-term solutions. While needs are becoming more complex, the funding gap is widening and the delivery of aid is becoming more difficult and dangerous. In this light, the European Commission has committed to provide humanitarian funding of almost €11.5 billion over the period 2021-2027.

The EU provides assistance to crisis zones and countries facing post-conflict instability helping affected populations around the globe. The EU is also raising awareness of 'forgotten crises' – often protracted crises which have escaped the attention of the media and the international community, devoting 15% of its initial humanitarian budget to these crises.

The EU works in all major crisis areas, including Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine, Ebola-hit West Africa, Sahel, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Venezuela, saving lives, reducing suffering and protecting the security and dignity of those affected.

The EU is a leading international donor in situations of forced displacement. In 2020, the EU allocated most of its humanitarian budget of more than €900 million to projects that address the needs of refugees and forcibly displaced, and local communities.  

The EU, as a Team Europe, is at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 Pandemic supporting inclusive and equitable access to vaccines through the COVAX Facility  and promoting a green and sustainable recovery, in close partnership with its Member States (the Team Europe approach - link) and relevant actors around the globe.

EEAS support to EU humanitarian aid efforts

The EEAS plays an important role in supporting the EU humanitarian aid and emergency efforts through its network of EU Delegations, in addressing the root causes of humanitarian crisis, and in increasing the preparedness and resilience of affected populations. The EU works continuously on th promotion of key policies, notably in the areas of peace and security, human rights, public diplomacy, promoting multilateralism and the UN-led coordination and addressing global challenges.

EU High Representative/Vice president Josep Borrell, jointly with other relevant Commissioners, actively mobilise the international community in support of humanitarian emergencies and crises and promote important initiatives at EU and multilateral level. This is achieved namely by hosting international events, such as the Brussels conferences on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”.

Addressing the humanitarian challenges faced by people affected by crisis and conflicts is a key political priority for the EU. The EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet regularly in the format of the Foreign Affairs Council chaired by the HRVP to promote robust, joint and timely  political and humanitarian responses of the EU to crisis and conflicts around the world.

The European External Action Service is working on a comprehensive approach to crisis and conflicts, to better articulate the humanitarian, development and peace interventions - the so called triple nexus. This work is carried out together with Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO), Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA), Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and the European Commission's Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI). While working in synergies, particular attention is payed to respecting each institution’s core mission and ensuring a do no harm and conflict sensitive approach, as well as full respect for the humanitarian principles.

EU Renewed Vision on Humanitarian Aid - The Commission Communication on the EU’s Humanitarian Action

In the current global context where humanitarian aid is facing an unprecedented set of challenges, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and humanitarian needs are at an all-time high, the EU has worked on a renewed strategic vision to address these challenges by working in partnership and promoting integrated approaches.

The new Communication on the EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles outlines how the EU will meet the rising humanitarian needs and show leadership at a time when the pandemic is worsening conditions for millions worldwide.

The Communication proposes a series of actions toward the provision of humanitarian aid by expanding the resource base, supporting a better environment for humanitarian partners, addressing the root causes of crises, and reducing humanitarian needs, in a Team Europe approach. It also sets out an agenda for the EU to support a better enabling environment for humanitarian aid, increasing compliance with international humanitarian law as well as further stepping up its support to humanitarian partners in navigating sanctioned environments.

Find out more

  • Image
    EU Aid Volunteer with child

    EU aid volunteer in action. © EUAidVolunteers 

Collaborating together to achieve more

The European Commission, via its Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) is driving the EU response to humanitarian crises and emergencies. It delivers humanitarian aid and it coordinates the provision of civil protection assistance from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

In line with the EU’s partnership approach, humanitarian aid is channelled through over 200 partner organisations and agencies on the ground, including:

•             Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

•             International organisations

•             Red Cross societies

•             UN agencies.