The French Presidency and DG ECHO initiated the European Humanitarian Forum (EHF) in 2022, and the Swedish Presidency co-hosted the 2023 edition. For now, it looks set to be an annual event, with the Belgian Government taking over the co-host role during the term of their Presidency in 2024.
This year the EHF was convened over two days, with DG ECHO taking the opportunity to hold a follow-on event for their humanitarian partners and an afternoon conference on Education in Emergencies.
EU-CORD members were well represented in person, with Dorcas, Fida, LM International, PMU, Red een Kind, Tearfund Netherlands, and Medair present for the Brussels event.
What were the big EHF themes?
- The forum emphasised prioritising the localisation agenda as crucial for developing the humanitarian system. DG ECHO took the opportunity to formally launch the Guidelines on ‘Promoting Equitable Partnership with Local Responders in Humanitarian Settings’, which supports this effort.
- The EHF also addressed the current impact of the climate crisis on the humanitarian system and the potential future challenges that may arise.
- The peace-development-humanitarian nexus was another key topic discussed at the conference. This included exploring ways to mitigate the impact of conflicts, involving development actors at the appropriate time, and managing the humanitarian space. The link between climate and this topic was evident, with a particular emphasis on anticipatory action.
- The Humanitarian Talks and regional meetings leading up to the EHF were valuable opportunities for engagement and provided a platform for smaller and medium-sized organisations to share insights.
Appreciation for the opportunity to meet ECHO staff
The members of EU-CORD expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to meet with the DG ECHO staff who oversee the countries or policy areas that are relevant to them. Next year we will advise members to identify the ECHO staff they wish to interact with and schedule the meeting ahead of time to maximize the benefits of the engagement.
Considerations for the 2024 EHF
While acknowledging that the EHF is a forum for high-level engagement, we suggest that the organisers endeavour to incorporate more diversity of voices, especially in terms of NGO representation. This will allow ECHO to showcase the variety of its partners.
Although the session on disability-inclusive humanitarian action was interesting and necessary, it would have been more effective if the dialogue and presence of people with disabilities and their organisations had been integrated into the main panels.
Reflection on the ECHO Partners Segment
The annual ECHO Partners Conference provided a unique opportunity for DG ECHO to interact with their humanitarian partners throughout 2-days. The break imposed by covid, the change for ECHO to a certification process and the new dimension of organising the European Humanitarian Forum meant that this moment for interaction with ECHO was in doubt.
Thanks in part to the work of the VOICE network, DG ECHO ran a half-day ECHO Partners segment.
There was an opportunity to hold a Q&A with the Commissioner, a panel discussion on localisation and a side panel on implementing the minim environment guidelines.
The Partners Segment has the potential to bridge the gap between the technical staff (desk officers, policy staff) and the high-policy level (covered by the EHF). For example, we appreciate ECHO’s focus on new policy areas such as localisation and the environment. However, there are concerns among ECHO’s implementing partners about funding the policy requirements. ECHO may perceive this as technical, but it is a critical issue for its implementing partners. We need to have open and honest conversations about such challenges.
In terms of EU-CORD’s work, Ruth writes:
It was interesting to me that many of the topics and debates addressed at the EHF correspond with the issues we are currently exploring within the EU-CORD network: the triple nexus, localisation (which we refer to as reframing partnerships), and ongoing research on the impacts of climate change on the communities where we work and on our ways of working. I look forward to continuing these discussions at our April meetings.