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For effective humanitarian aid

The aim of humanitarian aid is to help people who find themselves in great need. In view of the many different strands of its humanitarian relief work, the Foreign Office has for the first time developed a strategy to encompass them all and lay down overall guidelines. Foreign Minister Westerwelle outlined the strategy on 15 November, addressing a large audience of people involved in humanitarian assistance.

As Minister Westerwelle explained, Germany’s humanitarian aid aims to move swiftly and flexibly to provide help where there is a need. “Its objective is to ease the suffering of those affected and enable them to live through adverse situations in dignity and safety,” he said.

Making aid more efficient

Among the strategy’s guidelines are rapid and unbureaucratic assistance in acute crisis or disaster situations, better risk management in preparation for crises, and systematic improvements to the efficiency of humanitarian aid. The strategy was presented at the Federal Foreign Office as part of the 100th session of the Humanitarian Aid Coordinating Committee.

The Coordinating Committee is a way for the various organizations involved in humanitarian aid to share information and coordinate their activities. Its almost 30 members include the Association of German Development NGOs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, or GIZ, as well as representatives of German NGOs, other Government Ministries and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief.

Major challenges

The strategy considers the many challenges facing humanitarian aid. Because of climate change, for example, it will increasingly need to deal with extreme weather events and their consequences – as illustrated by the fact that the number of natural disasters has gone up from around 200 to 400 in the last 20 years.

There are also many countries in which violent conflicts are reemerging or becoming entrenched, leading to a rise in the numbers of people fleeing their homes. According to figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world rose to 42.5 million in 2011. As Foreign Minister Westerwelle reminded his listeners, these statistics represent “naked human suffering”.

German humanitarian aid objectives

Through an interministerial agreement with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Foreign Office assumed sole responsibility for humanitarian aid abroad in May 2012.

Its objectives for Germany’s humanitarian aid are as follows:

  • to provide assistance swiftly, flexibly and without unnecessary bureaucracy, according to need and in line with international standards
  • to boost local capacities, by involving local stakeholders and recipients of aid and having aid transition into self-help
  • to achieve preparedness, improving response capabilities before disaster strikes and strengthening local structures
  • to support international coordination, reinforcing the UN led international humanitarian aid system constantly and for the long term
  • to enable quality assurance, learning from experience and integrating innovations and quality control into humanitarian assistance
  • to make use of humanitarian diplomacy, developing new humanitarian aid partnerships and intensifying dialogue with regions at risk of crisis and disaster

Last updated 15.11.2012

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