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Compendium of good practices for a greener humanitarian response

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As the environmental crisis deepens, there is a growing consensus in the humanitarian community that addressing the environmental impacts of humanitarian aid is a collective responsibility. While the purpose of humanitarian assistance, by its very definition, is to provide relief to people affected by disasters or crises, adverse impacts on the environment have often been perceived as secondary to the humanitarian imperative.

As a key donor of humanitarian aid, and in contribution of the European Green Deal, DG ECHO acknowledges its imperative role in upholding the ‘Do No Harm’ principle in relation to the environment and those who depend on it. This commitment is enshrined in the newly adopted Communication on EU’s Humanitarian Action , wherein the Commission reiterates its support for the ‘greening’ of humanitarian aid.

Recognising the need for firm action, DG ECHO put forward an ambitious approach aimed at reducing the environmental footprint at operational and programmatic levels in October 2020, which was underpinned by a study published in May 20203. Through means of capacity building and technical support, DG ECHO intends to inspire and support its partners to adopt and implement more environmentally sustainable projects.

This compendium showcases 12 environmentally friendly and innovative projects that have been successfully implemented by various humanitarian organisations. In addition to indicating the technical and financial requirements, the compendium also assesses the advantages, challenges and lessons learned in the framework of each project. As such, the aim is to raise awareness of the existing tools and guidance, and of the numerous good practises that have been piloted by humanitarian organisations.

As illustrated by this compendium, top-down support is crucial to sustain these initiatives in the long term. Some of these initiatives have required investment, some have helped contribute to savings, while in some cases there were no financial implications. Technical expertise was sometimes needed but was not always necessary, for the implementation of the initiatives.

Considering the significant impact that the environmental and climate emergency will have on the planning and implementation of future projects, it is crucial for environmental protection and sustainability to become an inherent part of humanitarian responses. This requires cooperation, transparency, and the exchange of good practises.

With this publication, DG ECHO aspires to shed light on solutions and contribute to the collective learning of the humanitarian community.

I would like to express my gratitude to all the humanitarian organisations that contributed to the publication.

Ms Paraskevi Michou
Director General