30 country profiles reflecting
the state and diversity of the
humanitarian sector in Europe

Click on the flags to explore
Summary of
all countries

German Humanitarian Action focusses on vulnerable groups and victims of armed conflicts unilaterally and in collaboration with international stakeholders, deploying Quick reaction teams worldwide.

Early Recovery, Sanitation water and Hygiene, Health
Children, Refugees, Minorities
757 Million US Dollar (2012)

Scope of involvement


The support for Kosovo illustrates the promotion of humanitarian assistance. Massive contributions to the reconstruction process were made, with leading participation in UNMIK and EULEX. Germany hosted more than 350000 refugees from Yugoslavia and is now the recipient of the biggest group of asylum seekers in Europe. Since 1996 Germany is also a member of the executive board of the WEP and third largest contributor of WHO, it also contributes to OCHA operations.


Germany is one of the leading actors in the ongoing work to unify Europe, it is ready to take responsibility in the field of humanitarian action, primarily in support of ECHO’s operations.


National civil protection is overseen by the Ministry of the Interior. Implementing partners are namely the THW and the German Red Cross as auxiliaries to the German authorities in situations of disasters. Support for Refugees or other groups is established by NGOs working with the respective authorities.

Turning point

The reunification of Eastern and Western Germany in 1990 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union increased awareness and support for humanitarian action.


Types of stakeholders

NGO in general

A high number of NGOs are represented on the Coordination Committee created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and are engaged in joint projects together with Federal institutions.

National Red Cross Society

Distributed across the country with numerous regional offices and a national entity.

Faith-based organisations

Germany is home to NGOs with religious backgrounds that are Christian and Muslim alike, such as Jesuits, Islamic Relief or ‘Diakonie’.

Armed Forces

Armed Forces can be considered a partner in humanitarian projects on the basis of multilateral missions and bilateral agreements. The operations are mostly subsidiary and only executed if civil organizations are not able to manage the situation. medical equipment, transport and logistics, the establishment of rescue centers is in focus.

Private Sector

GIZ, the German Society for International Cooperation is the most important player and its work is commissioned by Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

State humanitarianism

Ministries or state agencies involved

The German Federal Foreign Office is the national lending agency, administering, financing, and coordinating projects. The Ministry of Defense delivers transport and logistics, evacuates citizens out of the risk areas, establishes rescue center and delivers medical supplies. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation focusses on foodstuff supplies and reconstruction of relevant infrastructure. The Ministry of Health sends doctors and nurses in cooperation with NGOs and WHO. The German Ministry of Transport analyses needed capacities for relief supply transports.

Legal framework

Domestic disasters are regulated by the relevant domestic law, together with Civil Protection and Disasters Support Law and National Security Laws; International missions on the other hand, are regulated by bilateral or multilateral agreements or mandates.

Principles and accountability

Germany explicitly defines principles and accountability mechanisms. Access to information, availability of statistics of former and current missions was enhanced, characterised by cross-sectorial collaboration led by ministries and NGOs. 23 principles of good humanitarian assistance were drafted and defined by the authorities.


The Coordination Committee for Humanitarian Action was established in 1994. 17 humanitarian agencies, six German ministries, the THW, GIZ as well as representatives of the federal states and IFHV as academic partner are members.

Specific focus

Linking Relief Rehabilitation Development

Traditionally separate jurisdictions of the Federal Foreign Office in charge of humanitarian action, and the Ministry of Economic Cooperation responsible for development aid, have existed. This separation has slowly blurred as more cooperation between the various actors involved is promoted and anchored institutionally.

Civil Protection

The THW, a federal agency responsible for civil protection, has a unique architecture, it is highly professional but staffed only by trained volunteers with more than 80000 Germans active. It is also supported by the German Red Cross as auxiliary to the German authorities in matters of civil protection.

Humanitarian Education

Higher education

Education in the field of HA is delivered by universities and institutions and not by vocational training institutes. An evident trend that can be observed is the increase in specialised educational programmes at University level touching upon specific aspects of humanitarian action. The Bologna process and the adaptation of the former German University system to the existing BA and MA Study programmes have made this development possible. A number of new study programmes especially at the Masters level are now offered for e.g. NOHA, Bachelor in International Disaster Relief, Bachelor in Emergency Practitioners, Master of Safety and Security Management, Master of Rescue Engineering.

Seminar/short courses

An increasing number of additional short course and summer schools and workshops are now being established and provided by the major non-governmental organisations to staff or field workers, inter alia advanced trainings and employee trainings for operations abroad, courses in public health and disaster management, and workshops in tropical medicine.


FEDERAL FOREIGN OFFICE. (2014) Leitfaden zur Erläuterung der Aufgaben des Auswärtigen Amts (AA) und des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) in den Bereichen der Humanitären Hilfe und der Entwicklungsfördernden und strukturbildenden Übergangshilfe (Online). Available from http://www.bmz.de (Accessed: January 2014).

ALNAP. (2012) The State of the Humanitarian System (Online). Available from http://www.alnap.org (Accessed: January 2014).

VENRO. (2013) Jahresbericht 2012, (Online). Available from http://venro.org (Accessed: January 2014).

LIESER, J. (2014) Was kann humanitäre Hilfe leisten? Caritas International (Online) Available from http://www.caritas-international.de (Accessed: February 2014).

WEINGÄRTNER, D. et al. (2011) Die deutsche humanitäre Hilfe im Ausland. Gemeinschaftsevaluierung. Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung/Auswärtiges Amt, Available from http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de (Accessed: January 2014).

VON PILAR, U. (2013) Alle Brüder? Eine kurze Geschichte der humanitären Hilfe, in LIESER, J./DIJKZEUL, D. (eds.). Handbuch Humanitäre Hilfe, Heidelberg: Springer.


Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Heintze and Charlotte Lülf, LL.M., M.A.
Ruhr University Bochum

This site uses cookies to enhance user experience and to track usage statistics. For more information, see NOHA’s Data Privacy Policy.