Humanitarian operations aim to assist and protect vulnerable populations while answering to the fundamental needs (in food, water, shelter, medical care etc.) of the people directly affected by a conflict or natural disaster.
Among these needs, the access to food and water are a top priority and require an immediate response from the humanitarian actors.
National governments are the first actors in charge of the delivery of the humanitarian assistance to their population, whilst the international humanitarian assistance comes to complete and strengthen the overall humanitarian response. International humanitarian interventions reunite a diverse range of actors, such as Governments, International Organizations (IOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), firms, and foundations, who provide immediate relief during and/or after a disaster. The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) are two United Nations institutions based in Rome, whose main objective is to deliver emergency food relief and to strengthen the development and resilience of agricultural systems.
The nature of humanitarian disasters, may they be linked to conflicts or natural disasters, requires a multi-sectorial approach of the international humanitarian response. The idea of dividing humanitarian interventions into sectors came to light in 2005, with the objective of accelerating, facilitating and strengthening humanitarian responses. In order to avoid overlaps in their actions, IOs and NGOs now intervene among sectorial groups also called “clusters”. The clusters coordinate humanitarian operations on the field, and each cluster is run by a UN or non UN international actor.
The cluster approach of humanitarian operations facilitates emergency and development’s responses, especially in the areas of food safety, nutrition and agricultural development.
In regards to the FAO mandate, the existence of a cluster dedicated to food safety and agricultural development enables the organization :
To share its expertise in the fields of food security, nutrition, and agricultural development with other I(N)GOs
To emphasize the fact that smallholder farming should be considered as a tool for a sustainable agricultural development.
Download the FAO clusters guide :
The choice of clusters and their coordinators is based on national governments decisions and on the nature of the crisis. FAO has been several times the leader of the food security and agricultural development’s clusters. In regards to the food security cluster, the FAO often co-leads it together with the WFP.
In regards to the WFP, due to its mandate and expertise in emergency responses it has regularly been called to coordinate the telecommunications and logistics’ clusters, in addition to a co-lead of the food security cluster within FAO. The WFP puts innovation at the center of its humanitarian interventions, which places the organization as an essential international humanitarian actor.
Nowadays, the WFP is considered to be an essential international humanitarian organization, and is the biggest international humanitarian agency in terms of food assistance. Each year, the WFP intervenes in 80 countries and deliver assistance to more than 80,000,000 persons. The WFP has two main strategic objectives, which can be distinguished in two categories :
Emergency food assistance
Improvement of nutrition and strengthening of resilience
The Agenda 2030, which include the objective “Zero Hunger”, aims to eradicate hunger, undernutrition and malnutrition. Yet, 821,000,000 people are still suffering from hunger, principally due to the rise of armed-conflicts and the accelerated occurrence of natural disasters. To combat such dramatic figures, the WFP sends every day 5,000 trucks, 20 boats and 92 planes in order to deliver an immediate and efficient humanitarian relief to those who need it the most.
Recently, a structural reform of the WFP’s interventions has been set to motion. Up until now, the emergency operations, the protracted relief and recovery operations, and the development operations were the three main ways the WFP intervened. The restructuration of the WFP’s field operations through the establishment of Country Strategic Plan aims to better combine emergency response and development assistance ( humanitarian-development nexus) and to foster more coherent and more resilience oriented interventions.
In the last ten years, international humanitarian actors restructured their food assistance practices. A common observation is that sudden food distributions may negatively impact local economies, destabilize local markets, and put beneficiaries in a weak and vulnerable position. The nature of the international food assistance has therefore been modified, and is now implemented in a more resilience oriented approach. Rather that distribute in-kind food, humanitarian agencies promote the cash for food approach, enabling the beneficiaries to purchase products of their choosing and the local economies to refunction. The transition from food aid to food assistance is considered to be an approach more sustainable and more respectful of beneficiaries’ dignity..
This shift has implied an increased diversification and complexification of the intervention modalities. Thus, depending on the context, the humanitarian agencies can decide to provide assistance through the distribution of food, or through the grant of cash used to buy food on local markets. Food assistance can also be conditional on children’s schooling, children’s vaccination, the completion of job training, the participation to public works… The assistance can also be delivered through social safety net systems.
This approach has been endorsed by the international community on the occasion of the 2013 revision of the Convention of London (redirection to Food assistance international convention website). This new 2013 Convention replaces the one of 1967, which had never been revised previously. In the new Convention, Member States commit to deliver food assistance in cash and not in volume. Member States also commit to guarantee the quality and efficiency of their assistance and to provide and share data. Thus, while responding to emergency, the Convention aims to contribute to the improvement of food security in the long term by fostering local purchases in developing countries. France ratified the Convention of London in 2017.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Centre de Crise et de Soutien (CDCS), is the one setting the direction taken by the French humanitarian assistance. In its embassies, France can also rely on a network of humanitarian experts, who are in close contact with all actors of the humanitarian community on the field, I(N)GOs, local authorities, other donors, beneficiaries. France is also a member of the Good Humanitarian Donorship, an initiative created in 2003 which brings together humanitarian donors who intend to impulse good practices. France is strongly engaged, especially at the UN Security Council and with its international partners, to ensure humanitarian actors have a safe access to the population in need of immediate assistance, and, more largely, to improve the international community responses to the humanitarian crises worldwide.
Additionally, France joined in 2017 the “Grand Bargain” initiative. The Grand Bargain came to life during the International Humanitarian Summit which took place in Istanbul in 2016. Huge and increasing gaps have been observed between humanitarian assistance needs on the one hand and the availability of material and financial resources on the other hand. The Grand Bargain brings together a diverse range of actors (Member States, NGOs, international agencies, foundations), and aims to :
Increase the multi-year funds dedicated to humanitarian interventions
Better coordinate the humanitarian operations conducted by a diverse range of actors at different levels of intervention (local, regional, national, international)
Accentuate the involvement of local actors in order to better apply the humanitarian-development nexus.
In this context, during the 4th Conférence nationale humanitaire (redirection to french Ministry of Europe and foreign affairs’s website), held in Paris in March 2018, the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Mr. Jean Yves le Drian presented to the humanitarian actors (NGOs, national and international agencies) the new France’s Humanitarian Strategy for 2018-2022, which reinforces France’s commitments both with respect to the principles that it intends to promote and in financial terms.
France’s humanitarian action aims to preserve and respect affected populations’ life and dignity, while answering to their fundamental needs such as the access to food. France’s humanitarian action is also a pillar of its foreign policy, illustrating France’s solidarity towards the most vulnerable populations. The increase of humanitarian crises – in both their number and duration – linked to armed conflicts or natural disasters, requires a more efficient and rapid humanitarian response.
The new Humanitarian Strategy for 2018-2022 replaces the one for 2012-2017. In order to better respond to the multiplication of humanitarian crises worldwide, to their increasing duration and complex dynamic, France intends to multiply by 3 its financial commitment, to reach 500,000,000€ in 2022.
Download the new humanitarian strategy
This new Strategy includes 15 concrete engagements taken by France :
- 1. France commits to build a strong coalition of States to step up protection of humanitarian and medical personnel in conflicts, building on its initiative launched on 31 October 2017 at the UNSC, and to obtain support for the political declaration adopted at that time.
- 2. France will pursue its efforts to promote the protection of children in armed conflict and will continue working with UNICEF to promote the universal adoption of the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles.
- 3. France will pursue its commitment to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda by supporting actions that provide specific assistance to women and girls to further their reintegration and empowerment and especially income-generating activities.
- 4. France will continue to participate in the intergovernmental process begun following the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to reach an agreement on a potential forum of States to enhance compliance with international humanitarian law by creating a space for dialogue.
- 5. France will pursue its efforts to rally as much support as possible, including from permanent members of the Security Council, for its goal of regulating the use of the veto in the event of mass atrocities.
- 6. France will continue to combat impunity to the fullest extent, particularly with regard to IHL violations in conflicts, and especially in the Middle East.
- 7. France will work with its partners and in relevant forums to ensure the full application of international humanitarian law to cyberspace. It will continue to actively participate in international discussions on lethal autonomous weapons systems within the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons, especially as regards the application of international humanitarian law.
- 8. France will develop constructive and demanding humanitarian dialogue through regular consultations with its main partners, whether parties to a conflict or emerging humanitarian actors, to promote IHL compliance and encourage possible cooperation.
- 9. France will pursue its efforts to communicate IHL principles to its armed forces and abroad. It will continue implementing its operational practices for protecting civilians in external theatres of operations.
- 10. France will provide a total of €500 million in humanitarian aid contributions to become one of the top three European donors and one of the top five global donors.
- 11. The French institutions involved in humanitarian action will draw up a new methodology and simplified tracking tool for humanitarian funding that is more accessible and used by all relevant departments.
- 12. From 2018 France will adopt the pilot project to harmonize and streamline the reporting processes put forward in the Grand Bargain for all its bilateral 22 humanitarian response funding mechanisms.
- 13. France will develop a long-term strategy, as early as the emergency response phase and where justified by the context or crisis, to respond to post-crisis challenges and recovery, developed jointly by the French Government and all humanitarian response and development stakeholders. A mechanism to coordinate the CDCS humanitarian and stabilization actions and calls for crisis and post-crisis projects supported by the AFD will implement this strategy on the ground.
- 14. France will apply the OECD’s gender marker to all of its bilateral humanitarian projects and will continue to advocate for UN and European agencies, funds and programmes to include it.
- 15. France will rely on a capacity-building mechanism for local stakeholders to give each NGO project financed by the Emergency Humanitarian Fund a portion of funds for capacity building of their local partners. It will also increase its funding for local stakeholders and will implement a marker to measure the degree of localization of its humanitarian action.
In a context where hunger is sometimes used as a weapon during armed conflicts, the Strategy reminds one the engagement taken by France in regards to the respect of International Humanitarian Law principles and their application.
France’s programed food assistance (PFA), which is part of its humanitarian budget, represents every year approximately 35,000,000€. The Comité Interministériel de l’aide alimentaire (CIAA) is responsible for reviewing IOs and NGOs subventions’ requests and allocating the PFA. Depending on the nature of the crises and the level of emergency, this PFA budget can be completed with other emergency funds or special grants allocated directly to the I(N)GOs.
In line with France’s commitments under the London Convention, the French food assistance promotes the use of diverse tools : food distribution, cash transfers, food vouchers, specific nutritional products, livelihood support, distribution of tools and seeds, veterinarian interventions. WFP and FAO are amongst the main beneficiaries of France’s food assistance.
Through its programed food assistance, France supports projects which aim to strengthen the resilience of populations ; the joint project of FAO, WFP and UNICEF implemented in 35 priority communes de convergence in Niger and funded by France over several years, illustrates this kind of support.