Humanitarian action has always been a highly political activity. The provision of humanitarian assistance and protection has relied upon engaging with political authorities in conflict-affected countries and has thus influenced the political economy of conflict. At the same time, the provision of humanitarian assistance has always been influenced by domestic political considerations in donor countries, reflected by the fact that different emergencies, and different groups affected by them, have received more or less relief aid. The issue is then not whether humanitarian assistance is political, but how.
The past decade has seen profound changes in the relationship between humanitarian, political and military responses to crises. This chapter reviews the factors driving these changes globally, analyses how they are shaping the new humanitarian agenda, and examines the implications of these trends for the European Union’s humanitarian role in the context of the future of Europe debate. It argues that the current trend towards integrating humanitarian objectives within a wider security framework risks contravening international legal norms, is unethical and will prove counterproductive. It concludes that safeguarding the independence of the European Community’s humanitarian capacity is vital.