In Austria, humanitarian action is largely charity-based, it is linked to development cooperation, relies primarily on ad-hoc donations and volunteer support, and is often driven by media-coverage of large-scale disasters.
Health, Nutrition, Water & sanitation
Disaster victims, Children, Refugees
10 mill. €/year; private expenditure 25 to 100 mill. €/year
The general interest for humanitarian action has been highest in political crises of neighboring countries which involved refugees.
A triggering event was the crisis in the former Yugoslavia in 1992, this prompted the Austrian TV station together with the Red Cross and NGOs to start the private fundraising organisation "Neighbour in Need” which since then raised nearly 200 Million € for disaster relief abroad.
NGOs account for the bulk of humanitarian expenditure and can be considered to be the backbone of the Austrian humanitarian sector. 10 NGOs are specifically accredited for humanitarian action. As NGOs are relatively well coordinated, they have some influence on Austria’s humanitarian policy and are actively involved in shaping it.
The Austrian Red Cross has the lead role in humanitarian action and the majority of personnel abroad.
The Austrian Armed Forces focus mainly on disaster-relief inside the country.
The main state actors are the Ministry of Interior (in-kind and personnel deployment in international disaster response and cooperation with EU Civil Protection Mechanism), the Ministry for European and International Affairs (funding and political oversight) and the Ministry for Agriculture (food aid).
There is lack of a systematic approach in state support for humanitarian action and no central agency for humanitarian action.
The setup of the Auslandskatastrophenfonds AKF (fund for disaster relief abroad) has constituted a major success; the fund allows the federal government to provide financial means for disaster response, rehabilitation and reconstruction to international organisations, NGOs or the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The fund was founded in 2009 with a budget of 5 Million € and the current government has pledged to increase the amount to 10 Million €.
NGOs criticise the lack of a long-term focus or priority for humanitarian action and strategical planning and call for introducing clear organisational structures, developing a coherent strategy, investing in disaster-prevention, and raising funds for official humanitarian aid.
The Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) in the Ministry for European and International Affairs, cooperates with IGOs and NGOs accredited with ADA. A coordination platform between the Ministry and NGOs was set up in 2011. NGOs and the Red Cross cooperate regularly in a humanitarian aid working group and representatives of state and private actors in international humanitarian aid meet to discuss current issues and short-term developments.
Humanitarian action is linked with development cooperation through the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).
There is no higher education course or degree in humanitarian action. Topics such as disaster management are part of university programmes. Short courses on aspects of humanitarian action by higher education institutions allow learning on particular elements of humanitarian action.
Considering the limited number of recruitment opportunities within the Austrian humanitarian action sector, the establishment of a fully-fledged university course on humanitarian action in Austria is questioned by the humanitarian sector. Those seeking higher education in the humanitarian sector often go abroad to find specialised programmes which combine their specific technical sector with humanitarian action.
The Fire Brigades, Austrian Red Cross, and Armed Forces mainly rely on their respective in-house training systems tailored to volunteers. Humanitarian professionals are mainly selected based on field experience and specific professional qualifications. Training and good knowledge of the humanitarian aid systems are seen as an asset rather than a requirement.
Humanitarian aid organisations seem to argue for more specialised seminars linked to mainly technical areas (e.g. logistics in humanitarian aid, nutrition in emergencies, legal aspects of disaster relief, etc.) which would introduce those interested in humanitarian action to specific areas of the sector.
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Dr. Gerd Oberleitner and Mag.iur. Reinmar Nindler, University of Graz