human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

On the EU humanitarian strand at the Parliament

At the European Solidarity Corps hearing

We were really proud to be invited to the Development Committee of the European Parliament on 18 February to present Caritas’ position on the humanitarian strand of the future European Solidarity Corps 2021 – 2027, in which the current EU Aid Volunteers initiative will merge.

Caritas experience with EU Aid Volunteers initiative took off in 2014, when the program had just been established. Up to now, dozens of national Caritas in Europe,  Africa and Asia have implemented projects on technical assistance, capacity building and volunteers’ deployment.

Overall it has been a unique experience, and sharing the lessons learned helps identify some of the strong points to keep in the new mechanism.

We consider it fundamental to call for the respect of the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence when referring to humanitarian volunteerism. This is clearly non-negotiable and reference to that should be easily found in the new guidelines. Volunteers and interested organisations must live through these principles and they should feel they have complete ownership.

The deployment of volunteers in strictly humanitarian settings should be avoided first and foremost for security reasons. Safety and security must be at the centre of all programs and in the offset of natural and man-made disasters this might create additional unnecessary burden for humanitarian organisations striving to deliver basic needs and saving lives.

Training of volunteers shall be accurate and tailored to the hosting context. The sending organisations shall dedicate an adequate amount of time to the preparation of volunteers. They should get familiar with the grounding values of their experience, both for themselves and for the people they will encounter along the way.

We reiterated that volunteers choose to put their professional and personal competence at the service of the most vulnerable in third countries and their choice should be highly valued in Europe. Their support actions will respond to the needs identified by the hosting community, which recognises that an external expertise might contribute to the improvement of technical capacities in specific domains which would remain otherwise uncovered. The European Commission proposes an age limit of thirty years old for eligible candidates under the future mechanism. However, this cap would significantly shrink the opportunities to recruit the needed profile, especially for hosting organizations. While investment on youth must be mainstreamed, in some cases more experienced professionals are more suitable.