In Brief: EU sick of doing the 'heavy lifting' on humanitarian aid

Janez Lenarčič, EU commissioner for crisis management. Photo by: Lukasz Kobus / European Union

The European Union released its latest humanitarian aid policy Wednesday.

Here are the takeaways:

Heavy lifting: “It is disturbing how a very small number of donor countries and the European Commission are doing almost all the heavy lifting to fund humanitarian response,” Janez Lenarčič, EU aid commissioner, told reporters. “In 2020, the top three donors — namely, the United States, Germany, and the European Commission — provided [around] 60% of humanitarian funding globally. This needs to change.”

Public-private: As part of the hunt for greater resources, the commission plan flags “a pilot blending initiative from the EU’s humanitarian budget to leverage additional funding from the private sector in a humanitarian context in 2021.”

Lenarčič said it was too early to say how much of the bloc’s €10.2 billion aid budget for 2021-2027 would go to such efforts. One example being studied, the Slovenian said, is the International Committee of the Red Cross model for involving the private sector in building physical rehabilitation centers.

European humanitarian response capacity: After EU humanitarian air bridges flew personal protective equipment around the world during the first COVID-19 lockdown last spring, the commission wants to formalize its ability to step in when traditional partners prove “ineffective or lacking,” the policy states.

“Its intention is certainly not to displace our humanitarian partners,” Lenarčič said. “It’s on the contrary to complement, when necessary and as appropriate, their efforts.”

International humanitarian law: Aid remains unconditional, but Lenarčič said he wants to see more “consistency” to make sure EU development money is only paid to countries that do not impede access for humanitarians.

Coming up: The commission plans to convene EU member states, the European Parliament, and humanitarian organizations for a European Humanitarian Forum this year to follow up on Wednesday’s priorities.

About the author

  • Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.