EU humanitarian aid needs more funding and better co-ordination, say MEPs

Published: 18 January 2011 y., Tuesday

The EU's humanitarian aid capability should be stepped up, by creating a European civil protection force, boosting funding and ensuring a clear division of labour between military and humanitarian bodies in crisis areas, says Parliament in a resolution voted on Tuesday.

The recent tragedies in Haiti and Pakistan once again demonstrated that the effectiveness, speed, co-ordination and visibility of the EU's disaster response tools need to be improved.  They also once again highlighted the need to create a European rapid reaction capacity, say MEPs, who call on the Commission to present a proposal to establish a European civil protection force, as advocated by Michel Barnier following the 2004 tsunami in south-east Asia. Optimising the existing Community Civil Protection mechanism, and using existing resources already available in Member States, should ensure that this initiative entails no major additional costs, they add.

The resolution, drafted by Michèle Striffler (EPP, FR), discusses the implementation of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, in the light of a growing number of complex crises (large numbers of displaced persons, violence among civilians, impact of climate change etc).

MEPs call for more funding, to support the growing number of humanitarian operations. They also condemn the "politicisation of humanitarian aid", whereby national interests influence the choice to provide assistance. MEPs argue that this has dire consequences, aggravating the erosion of "humanitarian space", the zone of neutrality in an armed conflict. As international humanitarian law lacks visibility, MEPs ask the Commission to use additional funding to raise its profile.

While involving military and civil protection forces is deemed positive in large-scale natural disasters, during complex crises there needs to be a very clear distinction "between the remits of military and humanitarian bodies", MEPs argue. Also, the use of military resources should be kept to a minimum and constitute a last resort.

Given the changing institutional context of humanitarian work, the report also urges the Council and the Commission to "introduce precise and transparent rules on cooperation and co-ordination between the European External Action Service and the Commission in the management of large-scale crises outside the EU."

The resolution was approved by a show of hands.

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