How does humanitarian aid create dependency?

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What is humanitarian aid?

Humanitarian aid supports people who find themselves in an acute emergency due to crises, conflicts or natural disasters and who cannot cope with it on their own. Its aim is to enable affected people to survive in dignity and security, to give them a perspective in life and to alleviate human suffering.

Humanitarian aid is often provided in a difficult political environment with a poor security situation, and mostly under great time pressure. It is therefore important that the work is based on certain principles and design principles.

The humanitarian principles

The central basis of German humanitarian aid are the humanitarian principles. They are based on the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which were developed on the basis of international humanitarian law. The principles of “humanity”, “neutrality” and “impartiality” were recognized as the basis of global humanitarian aid in resolution 46/182 of the UN General Assembly of 1991. Resolution 58/114 of 2003 added the principle of “independence” to them.

The principle of humanity dictates that human suffering be alleviated wherever possible, with particular attention paid to the most vulnerable groups in the population.

The principle of impartiality means that aid is based solely on need. It must not discriminate between population groups or on the basis of age, gender or religion.

The principle of neutrality forbids favoring certain sides in conflict situations or taking sides with one side. The perception of aid organizations as neutral is crucial for the safety of those providing aid.

The principle of independence draws a line between humanitarian goals on the one hand and political, military, economic or other goals on the other. The only legitimate purpose of humanitarian aid is to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Principles of the organization of German humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid that is committed to the humanitarian principles is demand-oriented and is provided by independent (i.e. usually non-state) partners who are unequivocally committed to the humanitarian principles. These partner organizations do not implement the aid through state structures in the affected country, but rather provide it directly to those affected, if necessary through local partner organizations.

The decisive criterion for the provision of assistance is the humanitarian need. Help is provided on a subsidiary basis. This means that the government and authorities of the country concerned always have the main responsibility for protecting and supplying their people. International humanitarian aid is only provided when the government of the affected state or other actors are unable or unwilling to do so sufficiently.

Humanitarian aid should be provided in such a way that it covers the most urgent needs first and has no harmful side effects, e.g. on the conflict or on the environment (Do no Harm). Taking gender equality and inclusion into account in humanitarian aid is a key concern, because needs and skills can vary based on gender, age or disabilities.

What is the Federal Foreign Office doing?

The Federal Foreign Office is responsible for humanitarian aid within the Federal Government. His network of missions abroad plays a crucial role in early warning and contact with those affected and aid organizations on site. Bärbel Kofler has been the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid since March 1, 2016. She is the contact person at the Federal Foreign Office for questions relating to humanitarian aid and is in contact with the relevant partner institutions in this area.

German humanitarian aid is based on the “Strategy of the Federal Foreign Office on Humanitarian Aid Abroad” published in April 2019, which explains not only the basics of German humanitarian aid but also its focus areas and the funding modalities of the Federal Foreign Office, placing German humanitarian aid in the overall context of the international humanitarian system coordinated by the United Nations and shows the interaction of humanitarian aid with other policy areas.

The Federal Foreign Office's strategy for humanitarian aid abroad PDF / 2 MB

For 2020, around 1.64 billion euros have been earmarked for humanitarian aid abroad in the federal budget. The Federal Foreign Office does not use these funds to provide help itself. Rather, it supports humanitarian aid measures carried out by United Nations organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and German and international humanitarian non-governmental organizations.

Priorities of German humanitarian aid

The priorities of German humanitarian aid include the areas of nutrition, health, water and sanitation and humanitarian protection (protection), the promotion of humanitarian cash aid (cash), help in situations of displacement and displacement, proactive humanitarian aid and humanitarian clearance of mines and ordnance .

Syria and the surrounding countries that have taken in refugees from Syria have been the largest humanitarian complex to which we have provided assistance for many years. Around 40% of Germany's global humanitarian aid benefits the people there. In the Middle East, we also help the people of Yemen, where almost 80% of the population is classified as in need by the United Nations. In addition, Germany is now the largest donor to the United Nations Aid Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Africa is another major focus of our humanitarian aid. The main areas in which we support humanitarian aid are the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Great Lakes area.

In Asia, Germany is providing humanitarian aid primarily in Afghanistan and in connection with the refugee crisis affecting the Rohingya group in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Germany is also supporting aid in Venezuela and in the surrounding countries affected by the migration and refugee crisis. In Europe, people affected by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine are supported.

Forward-looking humanitarian aid

Forward-looking humanitarian aid includes a variety of approaches and instruments that make it possible to take action before a crisis sets in. This type of humanitarian aid is based on early warning systems: data-based forecasts and analyzes are used to issue early warnings for escalating situations. Based on this, concrete, early humanitarian precautionary measures for immediate risk reduction (“Early Actions”) are triggered. In order for humanitarian aid to be deployed in a forward-looking manner, it is necessary to promote early warning mechanisms, to strengthen the performance and responsiveness of humanitarian actors and to establish financing mechanisms for forward-looking humanitarian aid.

Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance

Humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance is also part of the humanitarian aid sector. The removal of anti-personnel mines and dud ammunition, as well as victim care, will save lives and reduce suffering.

Not only meeting humanitarian needs, but also reducing them

In order to meet the continuously increasing humanitarian needs, humanitarian aid must on the one hand become even more efficient and effective. On the other hand, more must be done to prevent unnecessary suffering, to prevent humanitarian needs from arising in the first place and to help the people affected to return to a normal life at the earliest possible point in time. That is why the Federal Foreign Office advocates:

  • prevent the emergence and growth of humanitarian crises - and thus human suffering,
  • reduce humanitarian needs and reliance on humanitarian aid,
  • bring humanitarian emergencies to an end as early as possible.

At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the international community reaffirmed the importance of preventing crises before they arise and of developing solutions to existing crises at an early stage. Above all, the various instruments of foreign and development policy beyond humanitarian aid are intended to contribute to this. At the same time, humanitarian aid, development cooperation and peacebuilding must be better interlinked wherever possible. In doing so, the principle of humanitarian aid, namely to provide impartial, neutral and independent aid in a strictly needs-based manner, must be observed. Only in this way can humanitarian aid continue to save lives, alleviate suffering, preserve human dignity and give those affected a perspective in life. This interlinked approach is called the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus. As part of the OECD Development Committee (DAC), Germany actively contributed to recommendations for the implementation of the Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus.

Humanitarian aid as part of German foreign policy

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019/2020, Germany pays particular attention to ensuring the protection of humanitarian aid workers, strengthening respect for international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, and giving humanitarian organizations the freedom to act. to protect humanitarian space, even in difficult conflict scenarios.

additional Information

Background: Important basic documents for humanitarian aid

Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid

Relief Web: Digital service from VN-OCHA with current reports, maps and figures on humanitarian crises worldwide.

FTS: Financial Tracking Service: Global database maintained by VN-OCHA, in which all reported international humanitarian aid is recorded.

EDRIS: Database maintained by ECHO, in which all financial contributions from ECHO and the EU member states are listed.

Federal Foreign Office: The world in upheaval (Flyer) PDF / 482 KB

50 years of humanitarian aid in the Federal Foreign Office PDF / 5 MB