12 A European Voluntary Humanitarian
Aid Corps |
|Commission Communication: On How to Express EU Citizen's Solidarity through Volunteering: First Reflections on a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps
|Document originated||23 November 2010
|Deposited in Parliament||29 November 2010
|Basis of consideration||EM of 21 December 2010
|Previous Committee Report||None
|To be discussed in Council||To be determined
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
12.1 In the introduction to this Communication, the Commission
notes that Article 214 TFEU "enshrines for the first time
humanitarian aid as a separate policy of the EU", referring
specifically to the "European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid
Corps" (EVHAC), whose objective is "to establish a framework
for joint contributions from young Europeans to the humanitarian
aid operations of the Union" (Article 214(5) TFEU).
12.2 The Commission says that implementation of this
provision "provides an opportunity for Europeans to show
solidarity with people in need [and] builds on a clear EU trend".
It says that "volunteering is on the rise" and that
the last 20 years have shown a significant upward trend in the
number of active volunteers, which now stands at close to 100
million adults in the EU. The Commission sees volunteering as
an important value which has the potential to bring Europe closer
to citizens, with the volunteering landscape having become more
diverse in recent years, and opines that different schemes, actors
and approaches involved in volunteering in humanitarian contexts
make coordination and coherence of paramount importance. Having
been tasked to table a legislative proposal for the establishment
of the EVHAC, the Commission says that it will use this opportunity
"to include suggestions responding to the new challenges
and emerging needs related to issues such as the identification
and recruitment of volunteers, their training and their deployment."
This, the Commission says, can only be done on the basis of an
in-depth consultation of stakeholders and a coherent analysis
of opportunities and costs, which will pave the way for a future
legislative proposal. Before reaching that stage, the present
Communication aims to present the current situation of volunteering
in the relevant sectors of activity, with particular attention
being paid to the guiding principles, existing gaps, needs, and
necessary conditions for the EVHAC to make a positive contribution
to the overall response to humanitarian disasters, and also highlights
the most immediate issues to be considered in setting-up the EVHAC
and the way forward.
The Commission Communication
12.3 Against this background, DG ECHO (the part of
the European Commission which deals with humanitarian and civil
protection issues) has been developing this commitment through
consultation and discussion in Council working groups, with the
aim of tabling legislative proposals to Council and to the European
Parliament in 2012.
12.4 This Communication sets out the findings of
the Commission's work so far, guiding principles, gaps in the
current system and key conditions under which EVHAC must operate.
It envisages three possible options:
an "EU certification mechanism" for organisations that
respect centrally set EU standards in a number of areas including
selection and training of volunteers, volunteer management, back-office
functions and/or prevention and preparedness activities;
combining this option with work on recruitment
and the development of rosters for "surge capacities"
for the benefit of humanitarian disaster relief organisations
which would especially target experienced staff to be deployed
in key functions;
establishing a fully-fledged volunteer
scheme, which would include selection, training, matching and
deployment of volunteers.
12.5 The Commission emphasises the need for any scheme
to be demand-driven and to deploy volunteers who have skills and
can add value in humanitarian situations, and to avoid a situation
similar to that in Haiti in 2010, when it says a large number
of unskilled volunteers arrived and were ineffective, and in some
The Government's view
12.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 December
2010, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International
Development (Stephen O'Brien) says that the UK has some reservations
about the EVHAC proposal, mainly regarding the danger of deploying
young, inexperienced volunteers to potentially insecure and volatile
situations, and has suggested a number of alternatives, including
the use of volunteers in back-office functions, allowing more
experienced staff to be released to the front line, and deploying
volunteers under the umbrella of existing humanitarian organisations.
However, he further says, the Commission has taken on board these
concerns, which are mirrored by a number of other Member States,
and is now emphasising the importance of professionalism, humanitarian
principles and safety and security in all of their proposals,
and that he is satisfied with the way the Commission is approaching
this issue. He notes that "frequent consultation and discussion
opportunities have allowed us to engage fully with the development
of specific proposals and share our views."
12.7 The Minister notes that, going forward, the
Commission will continue to consult with Member States and relevant
NGOs in 2011, run a limited number of pilots and draw up a preparatory
action plan; and that in 2012, it plans to table a legislative
proposal, preceded by an impact assessment.
12.8 The Minister expects this year's proposed pilots
to provide more information about how the EVHAC scheme will actually
work, though it is, he says, already clear that the scheme primarily
aims to encourage the use of more volunteers in humanitarian and
disaster relief operations.
12.9 The Minister goes on to draw attention to his
own Department's strong interest in the plans for developing EVHAC,
highlighting the strategic support DFID provides to British volunteering
organisations and the specific support to VSO, Skillshare, International
Service and Progressio through the Partnership Programme Arrangements
(PPA). He notes that this is worth just over £38m for 2010-11,
of which £28.5m goes to VSO, and that in future DFID will
continue to support VSO (£30m in 2011-12 from outside the
PPA), as well as Progressio (£2m in 2011-12) and Restless
Development (£2.7m in 2011-12) through PPAs. Depending on
the quality of their proposals, the Minister also notes, other
volunteer organisations such as Skillshare and International Service
may also be supported through the Global Poverty Action Fund.
12.10 The Minister also draws attention to the announcement
by the Prime Minister in October 2010 of the creation of the International
Citizens Service, "to give thousands of young adults across
the UK the opportunity to join the fight against poverty through
volunteering in developing countries." DFID is, he says,
working with specialist volunteering agencies (including VSO)
to pilot the scheme in the first year, offering places for 1,000
young people, with first year costs of up to £10 million.
12.11 Looking ahead, the Minister says that, although
no other government Departments have been consulted on this proposal
at this time, as more substantive proposals are developed by the
Commission on the specifics of how EVHAC will work, DFID will
consult with relevant government Departments and civil society
organisations who may be interested.
12.12 Although the Communication raises no questions,
we are reporting it to the House because of the importance of
its subject matter, and look forward to hearing further from the
Minister as and when the Commission produces either a more detailed
Communication or the draft legislative proposals.
12.13 In the meantime, we are also drawing this
chapter of our Report to the attention of the International Development
12.14 We now clear the Communication.