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Humanitarian actors turn their attention to the European Consensus
Véronique de Geoffroy and François Grünewald

The Plaisians Action Plan puts forward the idea of a multi-actor monitoring mechanism for the main strategic measures and key commitments of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid

Almost a year ago, thanks to the dynamism of the Portuguese presidency of the European Union, the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid was signed in Lisbon. The European Council, Parliament and Commission thus formally committed themselves to the fundamental values and universal principles of humanitarian action (independence, impartiality, neutrality, universality) and underlined the importance of the United Nations, NGOs and the Red Cross Movement. The Consensus is a major step forward, ratifying a shared vision of humanitarian aid based on principles, and aiming for greater effectiveness in the provision of aid.

From the 23rd to the 25th of October 2008, more than 70 people took part in Groupe URD’s 6th Autumn School on Humanitarian Aid, in the little village of Plaisians in the South of France, to discuss the implementation of this Consensus and how this might be monitored by the citizens of Europe. Participants included representatives of European institutions (DG ECHO), Member States (France, Germany, Belgium), Spanish, British and French research bodies, NGOs (MDM, OXFAM, Secours Islamique, VOICE) and universities (ACUNS, Montpellier, Aix en Provence, Paris XII-Créteil).Together they drew up the Plaisians Action Plan (PAP).

The PAP is a proposal by individuals from a variety of countries who believe in the values behind the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid and who want to develop mechanisms to reinforce its application. They feel that it should not just be the responsibility of governments to ensure that such a Consensus is applied and respected. The action plan is directed at humanitarian actors and particularly those from civil society, as well as political representatives at European and Member State levels.

A pre-condition of the action plan is that a very broad communications programme is run aimed at Member States, public opinion, humanitarian actors, inter-state institutions (UN, NATO, etc.) and the media.

It calls for the creation of a "multi-actor observatory" mechanism for the Consensus, to which NGO platforms such as VOICE and CONCORD, Member State platforms, think tanks, unions etc. would contribute.

It encourages the implementation of national action plans to integrate the Consensus into national mechanisms. This will include providing new Member States with support in integrating the founding principles of European humanitarian action.

The PAP will make it possible to monitor the application of the main measures of the Consensus, and notably those related to respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and humanitarian principles - the Consensus stipulates that humanitarian aid is not a crisis-management tool. It nevertheless calls on states to play their part fully and for diplomatic efforts towards better access to crisis-affected people.

The PAP promotes commitment from all parties towards a better quality of response, whether this is in extreme emergencies or in long-term and all too often forgotten crises. The question of quality is one of shared responsibility between actors and donors. It also argues that greater attention should be given to pre-crisis phases, and particularly disaster prevention and preparedness.

Finally, the PAP also provides a framework for monitoring commitments made about limiting the use of military and civil protection forces in humanitarian action. In this way, it hopes to contribute to the defence of a broad and open humanitarian space where humanitarian principles are respected, thus allowing access to provide assistance and protection to extremely vulnerable populations who have been affected by wars and natural disasters.

The structure of the PAP is based on that of the European Commission’s Consensus Action Plan. It uses the same ‘action areas’ that appear in the Commission’s document.

 

Véronique de Geoffroy and François Grünewald
Groupe URD

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