We can’t leave anyone behind
It is urgent to assist the 360 million people worldwide who need humanitarian assistance, write Carlos Zorrinho and Mónica Silvana González.
MEP Carlos Zorrinho is EP Standing Rapporteur for Humanitarian Aid (S&D, PT). MEP Mónica Silvana González is former EP Standing Rapporteur for Humanitarian Aid (S&D, ES).
As new conflicts arise and unresolved ones remerge, crises multiply worldwide. Accentuated by the consequences of climate change, their effects are more long-lasting than ever before, compromising the future political stability and sustainable development of many countries and regions.
The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, the crisis in the Sahel and the humanitarian emergency in Gaza are there to remind us that the EU needs to stand by its commitments as one of the largest humanitarian actors in the world, following closely the Sendai Framework and the agreements of the Grand Bargain.
As one of its founding values (preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union), solidarity and respect for human dignity must guide its external action to strengthen its position in the international scene, engage more donors, ensure the respect of International humanitarian law (IHL) and follow the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable in the current and the so-called forgotten crises.
The report “How to build an innovative humanitarian aid strategy: spotlight on current and forgotten crises”, which will be voted in next plenary, is a step in the right direction. Within the current revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework, we need to innovate and find new ways to respond to the growing humanitarian needs, respecting one of the EU’s hallmarks: its solidarity.
People-first humanitarian approach
When crises hit, women and girls are disproportionately affected. They often lose access to healthcare and education and face higher risks of gender-based violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation. For children, being trapped in a humanitarian crisis can negatively affect their future well-being.
Unfortunately, in humanitarian contexts, having a disability often means being left behind. Humanitarian law has been insufficient to effectively protect persons with disabilities in humanitarian settings.
In the report, we outline the utmost importance of ensuring compliance with IHL internationally. Equally, the report insists on the importance of a gender-sensitive humanitarian action, calling to accelerate the full implementation of the EU Gender Action Plan and prioritise access to SRH in the immediate humanitarian response.
Finally, the work done by the Commission regarding the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian settings needs to be improved. We call for reinforcing the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030.
Creating an enabling environment
Next to innocent civilians, humanitarian workers in conflict areas are too often the target of unprovoked attacks. Only in 2022, 444 aid workers were victims of attacks while on duty, including 116 killed, 143 injured and 33 kidnapped. Recently, we regret the death of the 101 UNRWA workers in Gaza.
Women aid workers face specific dangers, being more likely to be kidnapped or to face sexual assaults. Harmful gender norms and extremism sometimes impede them from doing their work, such as we have seen in Afghanistan.
In cooperation with member states, we ask the Commission to prepare a humanitarian diplomacy strategy and work in close cooperation with local organisations, especially women-led organisations, to ensure that civilians and humanitarian workers are protected in conflict.
From theory to practice
To ensure the prosperity and development of regions affected by conflict and natural disasters in the long term, the triple nexus needs to become a reality. Investing in their future by reinforcing the EU’s peace efforts and its role as an international development agent is necessary.
We would like to see a better inclusion of the triple nexus approach across policies and structures, and we believe the NDICI is the perfect instrument to put it into practice. By increasing the involvement of local actors and making more funding available to support countries’ transition from humanitarian aid, we can move from theory to reality.
Scaling up the funding
Only 56% of the funding needs were met last year. The situation is more critical in countries affected by decades of conflict and displacement crises and has become forgotten.
With multiple crises unfolding, the funding gap will only grow in the next few years. We need to:
- Reinforce the commitment of traditional donors. We call on the Commission to push Member States to stand by their commitments and not only to give 0.7 of their GNI to ODA but also ensure that 10% of that amount goes to humanitarian aid without compromising their development budget. The solidarity of the EU cannot stand only on the efforts of 6 Member States.
- The inclusion of private actors — in compliance with IHL, with complete transparency and following strict monitoring — can help reduce the funding gap.
- Consider the use of alternative funding instruments to reduce the funding gap, such as Special Drawing Rights.
- We urge the Commission to deliver a more harmonised approach to forgotten crises and report on its commitment to allocate 15% of its annual humanitarian budget to these crises.
The world is experiencing an unprecedented situation, marked by the multiplication and prolongation of crises. The challenges are immense, and people suffer; we cannot leave anyone behind.
We hope this report will be helpful for donors and decision-makers, as well as for development agents, enabling new solutions to be found in response to the global humanitarian emergency and ensuring that the millions of people who need humanitarian assistance worldwide have a chance for a better future.