The EU Aid Volunteers’ initiative





Humanitarian organisations need more well-prepared and trained people to carry out projects helping communities struck by disasters. The EU Aid Volunteers’ initiative intends to provide Europeans interested to help with the opportunity to provide their support in the countries where help is needed.

The majority of the existing volunteer schemes in Europe have a national focus. The EU Aid Volunteers initiative will bring volunteers and organisations from different countries to work together in common projects, establishing European standards in this field.

The Commission’s European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) was created in 1992 as an expression of the European solidarity with people in need all around the world. In its 20 year existence it has provided €14 billion of humanitarian assistance to victims of conflict and disasters in 140 countries around the globe. Over the last five years ECHO’s annual budget has averaged €1 billion. In 2011 alone these funds reached nearly 150 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in over 80 countries.

In 2004 ECHO became the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid before integrating Civil Protection in 2010 for a better coordination and disaster response inside and outside Europe. In 2010, Kristalina Georgieva was appointed as the first dedicated Commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.

The EU’s humanitarian assistance is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Every decision ECHO takes must be in accordance with these four principles which are at the heart of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. As such, ECHO’s humanitarian aid is distributed without regard for any political agendas, and without exception seeks to help those in the greatest need, irrespective of their nationality, religion, gender, ethnic origin or political affiliation.

When disaster strikes, help needs to arrive fast to meet victims’ basic needs and to preserve their dignity. Helping the world’s most vulnerable populations in crisis situations is a moral imperative for the international community and can make the difference between life and death.

Since its creation 20 years ago, ECHO has helped millions of crisis victims in more than 140  countries hit by natural disasters and man-made crises. It has provided emergency assistance and relief to the most vulnerable people in the most dangerous conflicts and disaster-prone regions.

Today ECHO has more than 300 people working in its headquarters inBrussels and more than 400 in 44 field offices located in 38 countries around the world. Immediately following a disaster they go to the crisis to carry out needs assessments, following this they monitor the implementation of the EU-funded humanitarian projects. This needs-based approach is a key characteristic of ECHO aid and how it is distributed.

In order to implement humanitarian operations, ECHO cooperates with over 200 partners (14 United Nations agencies, 191 non-governmental organisations and 3 international organisations: the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the International Organisation for Migration). In partnership with these humanitarian organisations ECHO has a very fast response capacity allowing funding and staff to be rapidly deployed to where help is most needed.

The European Union as a whole is the world’s biggest donors of humanitarian aid. Together, Member States and European Institutions contribute more than half of official global humanitarian aid.

Download the Factsheet
 Pilot project

You are interested in becoming an EU Aid Volunteer?
ECHO is currently funding pilot projects that select, train and deploy volunteers. Vacancies for these projects will be announced on this website, see the latest list of vacancies in the pilot projects.


Tip: More up to date educational events dealing with “Humanitarian Aid” can be found online on the Education Database »medicine & health«.

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