Action on humanitarian aid speaks louder than words

This week the European Union’s Humanitarian Assistance Committee will discuss a potential ‘European Consensus’ on humanitarian aid.
This debate comes in the midst of United Nations’ reforms, which are radically reshaping the global humanitarian system.
We welcome these efforts. But the benchmark of success should be enhanced humanitarian response at field level, not merely enhanced rhetoric or institutions in Brussels.
Challenges are threefold. First, EU humanitarian aid remains disconnected from tackling the longer-term needs of vulnerable populations. Their chronic poverty is inadequately addressed, partly due to the disconnect between relief and development aid. Second, greater emphasis must be placed on ensuring accountability to beneficiaries. European aid agencies on the ground are in a position to do this because of their relationships with local communities and yet accountability is desperately under-resourced. Third, the EU should use its political influence to support humanitarian aid based on the principles of neutrality and impartiality, not security agendas. In Afghanistan, for example, the response of some European donors is negligible, while others direct their aid through NATO military operations to ‘win hearts and minds’, rather than supporting the humanitarian response or sustainable reconstruction.
Instead, a new EU consensus on aid should emphasise assistance and protection for civilians, and guard against subordination of aid to geo-political priorities.

Howard Mollett
CARE International
London

Annie Street
ActionAid
Brussels

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