How the EU is creating the need for humanitarian volunteers

We as academics and bloggers often criticise small projects, organisations or individual initiatives. But one of the unique strategic skills that only people in large aid organisation seem to posses is thinking in big numbers: The EU wants to spend 239 million Euros (about US$ 312 million) on 10,000 humanitarian volunteers that will be sent to the field from 2014 to 2020 'to volunteer worldwide in humanitarian operations'. Why? Because the project is 'meeting the need for humanitarian volunteers' as the promotional video explains. Finally, all these desperate claims of local communities affected by humanitarian catastrophes to please, please send European volunteers will find an open ear; also, after long and successful lobbying work, 10,000 young Europeans, many potentially affected by under- or unemployment in their home countries will be able to work for little money volunteer (I could not find details about how much they get paid) alongside proper EU experts that often make hundreds of Euros every day. Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, does not hesitate to dig out her development buzzword Bingo chart to explain the great scheme (my emphasis): 
The EU AID Volunteers will express European solidarity with concrete deeds helping those most in need. And they will at the same time learn invaluable skills and competencies: Saving lives is a life changing experience that they will never forget. 

Maybe there is some irony hidden somewhere as critical debates about volunteering and voluntourism gain momentum and the EU decides to send young women and men abroad into humanitarian crisis zones where they will not only ‘save lives’, but also be exposed to veterans of the industry like ‘J.’ who I’m sure is already looking forward to welcoming EU volunteers and teach them some ‘invaluable skills’ ;)...
And if that's not enough, the EU also wants to involve 10,000 online volunteers to carry out 'tasks that can be done from home on a computer, for example helping out with translations, graphic designs or providing advice and support'. A great approach to dry out that pool of small professional organisations with underpaid interns that may already be performing such tasks in EU countries. Even if there is a hidden potential for some crowd-based work, I find it astonishing how the EU plans to flood a market with 20,000 volunteers in an area of the aid industry that is already very sensitive about volunteering efforts and the negative impacts of sending non-professionals abroad.
As you may have realized by now, this is a bit of an initial rant, but I will keep an eye on future developments, meanwhile wondering whether the EU just introduced a new nuance in the 'disaster capitalism' discourse...


  1. Wow, this quote you mention is just ... well, giving away a lot of ignorance at the side of the EC. "Saving lives is a life changing experience that they will never forget." - sorry, but saving lives should never be about those who actually do this but those potentially being saved.
    There's already too many people who think that development can just be done by anyone (after all, it's just so easy to "build a school in xy", isn't it...). I'd say it is a real backlash in the EC's humanitarian and development politics.

  2. The volunteers got smuggled into the Lisbon treaty by a rogue parliamentarian, now everybody is rationalising, and nobody can kill it, as it is in the treaty. The train is rolling. The Commission executes efficiently what parliament, the representation of the people, asks....


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