Refugees from Darfur in a transit camp, near the city of Tine on the Chad border (June, 2004).

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Since the early 1990s, the European Union (including the European Commission and European member states) has grown to be the largest international donor for humanitarian aid. Three European institutions are involved directly or indirectly in humanitarian aid: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

  • The European Commission

The European Commission department for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) is one of the largest providers of financing (donors) for humanitarian aid operations in the world. The responsible Commissioner is Christos Stylianides.

Funds are allocated for vital goods and services including food, shelter, medical provisions, water supplies, sanitation, education and demining. Disaster preparedness and risk reduction projects in regions prone to natural catastrophes are also among the life-saving activities financed by the Commission. Implementing partners include around 200 European non-governmental relief organisations, United Nations agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

Initially conceived as a possibility to offer concrete solidarity from one EU country to another in the event of a major natural disaster, the remit of civil protection mechanisms has been extended to third countries. The EU civil protection mechanism is increasingly triggered to complement the humanitarian response to crises (e.g. in Haiti). In 2010, the civil protection department has been included into DG ECHO, which is now called the European Commission department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.

Click here for a general overview of EU humanitarian aid.

Click here for more detailed information on DG ECHO.

Click here for the blog of Commissioner Stylianides.


  • The European Parliament

 The Parliamentary Committee for Development (DEVE) deals directly with development aid and humanitarian aid issues and it has a Rapporteur for Humanitarian Aid (currently MEP Guerrero Salom).

Committee for Foreign Affairs (AFET) covers the European Security and Defence Policy and the Common and Foreign Security Policy. This committee often discusses fragile states. One of its subcommittees focuses specifically on security and defence issues (SEDE).

Committee on Budgets (BUDG) is responsible for the multi-annual financial framework of the Union's revenue and the annual budgets.


  • The Council of the European Union

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is a major element of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU and is the domain of the Council, which unites the member states. Specific assignments such as humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management (including peacemaking) can be implemented under the CSDP (the so-called Petersberg tasks). 

The permanent political and military structures dealing with crisis management are: the Political and Security Council (PSC), the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) and the European Union Military Staff (EUMS), the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM) and the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC). At the end of 2010, all these bodies were included in the European External Action Service (EEAS), now headed by High Representative Federica Mogherini. In the case of large disasters outside the EU, dialogue between DG ECHO and the EEAS is important.

 Click here for
more information on the EEAS and the CSDP policy.

Within the Council, the Council Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) is a group bringing together the specialised humanitarian representatives of the member states. This Working Party aims to improve donor coordination on humanitarian aid and prepares input for other Council working groups on countries where humanitarian aid is provided. This group is chaired by the member state holding the rotating EU Presidency. 



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