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Estonian participation in international humanitarian policy

Estonia takes actively part in international humanitarian policies through European Union and UN organisations' work. The contributions for supporting international humanitarian aid, and reacting to both natural disasters and man-made crises have increased steadily. 

Estonia values EU's active participation in improving the systems and coordination of humanitarian aid. European Union is one of the largest donor of humanitarian aid: the Commission and Member States give together more than one third of the global financial resources allocated to crisis assistance. The main priorities are improving the capability to react to crises, increasing the effectiveness of the aid given, and connecting humanitarian aid, development cooperation and the protection of the communities.    

Estonia considers the EU’s role in making the international humanitarian aid system more efficient very important and supports the coordination of aid within the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism by taking into account the central role of the OCHA in coordinating aid in catastrophe areas. Estonia actively participates in the activities of the EU and UN agencies in shaping international humanitarian aid.

From July-December 2017 Estonia held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and also chaired the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) meetings. The main objective of the Estonian Presidency in humanitarian policy was to enhance initiatives that aimed to improve the cohesion and effectiveness of the collective humanitarian response by the EU and its Member States. Special attention was paid to responses to crises, protracted forced displacement, resilience building and innovative solutions to humanitarian emergencies.

From 2015-2017, Estonia was for the second time a member of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). After holding vice-presidency of ECOSOC between 2009-2011, Estonia has largely enhanced its profile and visibility in giving humanitarian aid. It is important for Estonia that the principles of Geneva Convention are followed to guarantee the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, especially including the importance of access of humanitarian aid to conflict zones and the protection of aid workers. More attention should be given to refugees: for example to their possibilities to continue their education. 

An important event during the membership of ECOSOC was the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul in 2016 where the focus was on solving and alleviating humanitarian crises. World Humanitarian Summit 2016 was intended to support Humanitarian Reforms of 2005 and 2010 (Cluster approach, CERF, Transformative Agenda). The four main topics of the Summit will be: 1) humanitarian effectiveness; 2) reducing vulnerability and managing risks; 3) transformation through innovation; 4) serving the needs of people in conflict. Follow on Twitter: #ReShapeAid

In March 2015, Estonia joined the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders. It aims for the following outcome: The substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries. Read more about the Framework and its seven global targets:

In 2014, Estonia joined the OCHA Donor Support Group that was one of the goals in the period of the Strategy for 2011-2015. It is a very prestigious position which allows Estonia to contribute to shaping the international humanitarian assistance policies. This is a natural step towards strengthening the role of Estonia on the international arena after a long political stand for a better and more effective international humanitarian aid. In addition, each year Estonia contributes to the CERF and provides human and financial resources to the UNDAC missions, thus, supporting the central role of the OCHA in determining the need for help in humanitarian catastrophes and coordinating a uniform response.

Estonia has been a member of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR ExCom) since 2007 and was elected a UNICEF Committee member for 2014-2016, hold a vice-presidency in the Bureau of the Executive Board in 2015 and was the President in 2016.

From 2009 to 2010, Estonia was the co-chairman along with Ireland of the largest group unifying humanitarian aid donors—Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD). GHD is an informal forum that brings together 41 countries that give humanitarian aid (donors), all of whom have approved standards for good practice in providing humanitarian aid—the principles of good humanitarian donorship.

The goal of the GHD group is to spread the principles of good humanitarian donorship. For this they meet about 4 times a year in Geneva, where they share practical experiences and discuss current issues in humanitarian policy. There is also dialogue with other humanitarian partners. The broader goal of the group is to improve the behaviour of donors, which would make helping those in need much more effective. All of the EU member states have joined the good humanitarian donorship principles through the “European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (PDF)” (Council declaration), which among other things bases its own goals on the GHD principles.

Read more about the GHD principles here:

Last updated: 29 January 2020

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