Humanitarian aid presupposes the provision of material and logistic support where it is needed, organised in order to address various problems like natural disasters, man-made crises, diseases, famine and other comparable emergencies.
Contemporary humanitarian crises have also led to increased numbers of displaced people, both refugees and internally displaced persons. In such cases, especially in protracted crisis situations, humanitarian aid extends beyond material and logistic assistance to cover a number of support activities intended to relieve the suffering and mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on the victims/displaced persons, including but not limited to: protection, shelter, psychosocial support, healthcare, education and qualification, employment, integration and other measures aligned with the nature of the crisis and the specific vulnerabilities of the target groups.
Principles and forms of humanitarian aid
Bulgarian humanitarian aid is provided respecting the following fundamental principles which are enshrined in international law and are spelled out in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid:
Bulgarian humanitarian aid is being provided in the following forms, specified in Council of Ministers Decree No. 234 of 1 August 2011:
- organising rescue operations
- providing humanitarian resources in the form of movable property
- financial grant assistance
- humanitarian assistance projects
- voluntary contributions to the EU or international organisations
Humanitarian aid is provided in cooperation with Bulgarian humanitarian NGOs, the Bulgarian Red Cross, international humanitarian organisations, local institutions and organisations in the countries where a humanitarian crisis unfolds, as well as with other international donors and humanitarian organisations. Bulgaria participates in the management of EU humanitarian aid and in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Humanitarian aid targeting
At present, humanitarian crises are complex and almost invariably unfold in complicated conflict conditions, which calls for an integrated approach to their resolution, involving all stakeholders. The purpose of this approach is to effectively bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development assistance, as well as with the peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, with a view to eliminating the risks of a crisis that has unfolded. In this regard, Bulgaria will be guided by the OECD Development Assistance Committee Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus.
Bulgarian humanitarian aid is targeted, as a priority, at destabilised countries and regions, paying particular attention to the crises that generate migrant flows and would have an especially damaging impact on our national security interests, considering the fact that Bulgaria is an external border of the EU. In this sense, the priority commitments cover countries of the Middle East and North Africa, West Asia and Afghanistan. In accordance with the humanitarian imperative, priority consideration is given to emergency response to natural and climatic disasters, as well as to protracted, often forgotten humanitarian crises.
In the context of the increasing number of protracted conflicts, the number of people with humanitarian needs is growing, too. Sustainable development and long-term solutions to problems like migration and forced displacement are impossible without peace. This necessitates an in-depth implementation of the concept of interlinkages between humanitarian, development and peace actions in the framework of the Bulgarian policy on ODA provision, the essence of which is a coordinated mobilisation of all factors and horizontal sectors to conduct activities for consistent removal of the population out of the state of humanitarian need and vulnerability at every stage of the humanitarian crisis.
The nexus should be complemented by the following horizontal priorities: respect of international humanitarian law and protection of the most vulnerable groups of the civilian population, with a special emphasis on women, children and people with disabilities. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic puts this situation in an even more worrying light. In countries with ongoing humanitarian crises, hospital capacity is severely constrained, and the eventual prolongation of the pandemic will have severe socio-economic consequences. Bulgaria is dedicating substantial resources to the provision of medical and food supplies to its partners both as direct humanitarian aid and through the existing mechanisms of the EU and of leading international organisations.
Local response to crisis and disaster risk reduction, including disaster preparedness and recovery, are essential to saving lives and enabling communities to increase their resilience to emergencies. Capacity building activities to prevent and mitigate the impact of disasters and to enhance humanitarian response are also part of Bulgaria’s humanitarian aid.
The EU and Bulgaria's humanitarian aid policy are built upon the internationally established principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, as well as of respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law.
The main mechanisms and forms through which Bulgaria provides humanitarian aid are:
Providing multilateral humanitarian aid through:
· financial contribution to the budgets of the competent agencies, programmes and funds of the UN system: the Central Emergency Response Fund /CERF/, UNESCO, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, WHO, etc.
· cooperation with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
· multilateral initiatives on food aid under the revised Food Assistance Convention , the World Food Programme, etc.
· the mechanisms and instruments of the European Commission
· voluntary ad hoc funds
· voluntary activities at national, European and international level.
Providing bilateral humanitarian aid by:
· sending rescue teams to participate in emergency and disaster relief operations
· providing movable property, materials, foods, medicinal products, medical devices, etc.
· conducting treatment and rehabilitation of injured people in Bulgaria
· providing grants to the governments of the affected countries, directly or through the instruments of international organisations
· allocating funds to international and Bulgarian non-governmental organisations for humanitarian activity in a country affected by the humanitarian crisis.