MEPs welcome new EU aid volunteer programme

Members of the European parliament have voted in favour of the creation of a European voluntary humanitarian aid corps. Rapporteur Michèle Striffler, and shadows Corina Cretu and Bill Newton Dunn explain why.

Michèle Striffler is parliament's rapporteur on EU aid volunteers: framework for the European voluntary humanitarian aid corps

The EU volunteer humanitarian aid corps initiative aims to reflect the humanitarian values of the EU and its solidarity with people in need by helping to strengthen the capacity of Europe to deal with humanitarian crises.

[pullquote]Volunteers play a key role in disaster preparedness, reducing the disaster risk and strengthening the link between relief, rehabilitation and development[/pullquote].

Everything should be done to ensure that volunteers bring real added value when deployed, and this will be based on the identified needs in the field with their role clearly defined.

Any European citizen can be a candidate and the selection of volunteers will respect a diversity of profiles and skills among young people, pensioners and experts. More operations to enhance the experience of volunteers, including a certification at the end of field deployment will be implemented.

I had the chance to meet several voluntary pilots returning from a mission. They gained invaluable experience and skills by helping the people who need it most.
Humanitarian aid is a moral imperative. I regret that the budget allocated for the period 2014-2020 was strongly decreased compared to the initial commission proposal, so reducing the number of volunteers that can be deployed.

I take this opportunity to express my concern about the lack of means by which DG Echo can meet the increasing humanitarian demands it faces. We are aware of the current problems caused by the late financial payments to DG Echo.

I am sure that this initiative will be a success to help the most vulnerable people.

The impact of voluntary assistance from the EU in the area of humanitarian aid and the cost – effectiveness of the program will be regularly evaluated.

Corina Cretu is parliament's S&D shadow rapporteur on EU aid volunteers: framework for the European voluntary humanitarian aid corps

Having worked as a shadow rapporteur on the EU aid volunteers report, I cannot but stress the practical importance of this mechanism. [pullquote]I strongly believe that the European parliament has made the right choice in adopting the report[/pullquote], through which we have certainly made an important step in further shaping the international profile of the European Union, which has once again proven its willingness to offer support for those in need. Solidarity with the less fortunate is, as we can see, not just a void principle, but a consistent reality which Europe is seeking to fulfil even outside its borders.

I am confident that through the EU aid volunteers, our mission will reach its purpose and that we will be able not only to repair the destructive effects of humanitarian crises currently happening around the world, but also to prevent future ones. It is in this sense that the European Union will be able to train almost 5000 volunteers who will accurately answer the problems of those who have fallen victims to disasters, as its budget of over €100m will assure its success in the recruitment, selection and deployment of the volunteers. The gains during its project phase prove the undoubtful effectiveness of the European voluntary humanitarian aid corps.

Bill Newton Dunn is parliament's ALDE shadow rapporteur on EU aid volunteers: framework for the European voluntary humanitarian aid corps

We live in a world where natural disasters are sadly becoming ever more common, so Europe must be able to provide humanitarian organisations with people who are skilled and willing to help and be a force for good in the world. A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that 88 per cent of the Europeans are for a programme that involves youngsters in EU humanitarian operations.

The creation of the European aid volunteers initiative is foreseen in the Lisbon treaty, and the European parliament backed the creation of the new EU aid volunteers initiative once the commission presented its proposal. The new programme will provide a way for people willing to help communities around the world struck by disasters. Around 4000 volunteers from across Europe will be deployed at various periods throughout the course of the scheme until 2020.

[pullquote]The new programme will now be open to people from all ages and walks of life who have the relevant skills and knowledge needed to assist during a humanitarian crisis[/pullquote]. Deployed volunteers will receive training and will be provided with all relevant resources needed during the mission. It is envisaged that volunteers will be brought together with international organisations to work together on common projects.

I am struck every year by the number of people who are willing to dedicate so much time and energy into helping others overseas, so I believe it's only right that we have proper structures in place to make applying to volunteer as easy as possible.