About the Humanitarian Congress Vienna

The Humanitarian Congress Vienna was initiated in 2010. One of the key aims of the Humanitarian Congress Vienna is to address changing humanitarian needs and thus to increase the visibility of humanitarian work. A second key aim is to raise awareness among decision makers regarding the relevance of humanitarian aid. A further focus is on the cooperation and coordination of actions, both at the national, European and international level.

What is Humanitarian Aid?

Humanitarian Aid is a set of measures for the saving of human life, the decrease of human suffering, and the protection of human dignity during and after armed conflicts and/or disasters as well to prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations.

For further information see also:

Defining humanitarian assistance

The Principles of Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarianism/humanity: the uppermost aim is to ensure the survival of affected people in acute need and to alleviate their suffering. Correspondingly, the dignity of human beings must remain guaranteed.

Neutrality: humanitarian aid favours no side (party) in an armed conflict or any other confrontation.

Impartiality/non-discrimination: humanitarian aid is based exclusively on need without discrimination of the recipients (meaning unconditionally and without discrimination based on ethnic origin, sex, religion, social status, nationality or political opinion).

Independence: humanitarian aid is given independent of political, economic, military, or religious circumstances or the aims of the parties to the conflict.


The 4th Humanitarian Congress Vienna is organised by the following humanitarian organizations:

Doctors Without Borders, Caritas Austria, the Austrian Red Cross, SOS Children’s Villages, as well as the Austrian Platform for Development and Humanitarian Aid – Global Responsibility and in collaboration with: CARE, Diakonie, Hilfswerk, HOPE´87, Jugend Eine Welt, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, and World Vision.

The Path from 2011 to 2017

After almost a year of preparation the first Humanitarian Congress Vienna was held in 2011 and since then the congress successfully takes place every two years bringing together experts from international humanitarian organisations, policy makers, media, academics and students of various disciplines, displaced persons, beneficiaries from affected countries and humanitarian aid staff who have been witnessing humanitarian crises up close. With around 1200 international participants and speakers’ onsite and online in 2015, the Humanitarian Congress Vienna is now an important forum in the world of humanitarian aid and thus provides rare network opportunities. The congress offers a unique mix of humanitarian and political keynote speeches and innovative debates and thereby strengthens existing structures in order to reach new insights.

From the beginning it was important for the organisers that the Humanitarian Congress Vienna serves as a platform where both acute and protracted humanitarian crises are addressed. Based on this outlook the themes of the previous congresses were developed and lively debated in panel- and round-table discussions:

2011: “Humanitarian Aid — Quo Vadis?”
2013: “Humanitarian Aid — Gender Matters”
2015: “Humanitarian Aid under Fire”

The Humanitarian Congress Vienna 2017: “Forced to Flee – Humanity on the Run”

Currently there are over 65 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that 2015 is the year with the highest number of refugees worldwide ever exceeding even post Word War II numbers. On World Humanitarian Day, 16 August 2016, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated in his message that a record of 130 million people worldwide are depending on humanitarian aid to survive. Behind the statistics stand human beings who are in need for reasons of war, natural disaster, instability, inequality, and displacement

Therefore in 2017 the Humanitarian Congress Vienna wants to put the spotlight on the individual behind the statistics. Thus under the theme

“Forced to Flee – Humanity on the Run”

the following six panel discussions will take place:

Panel 1: (Failed) Policy-Making with Global Consequences

The worldwide phenomenon of migration, particularly of people seeking refuge and protection, is mainly met by the Western World, namely the USA, European Union, Australia, or Austria, with a policy of deterrence aimed at keeping people as far away as possible. Thereby, the fundamental principles of humanitarian assistance, affirming that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found and the respect for life, health and human dignity must be ensured, seem to be ignored

Panel 2: The Erosion of International Human Rights Law – Who Cares?

Indiscriminate attacks on civilians, infrastructure, hospitals and schools are serious violations of international humanitarian law, deprive people of their livelihoods and force them to flee. Many people fleeing their home have no other option than to travel on dangerous routes to reach a safe place. However, at the same time their access to legal instruments for protection, such as the human right to seek asylum, is at best made complicated if often not granted at all. Non-compliance of international law and its consequences for those who seek protection from armed conflict or persecution will be discussed at the panel.

Panel 3: Refugee Health – Time for Change

The dynamics of conflict and displacement patterns have changed considerably over the past two decades. Throughout the same period, medical humanitarian assistance for displaced populations, migrants and refugees was guided by a limited number of principles respectively medical humanitarian priorities and hardly evolved over time. However, this static approach no longer responds adequately to the dynamic reality of global migration and refugees on the move. Human beings and their medical needs must again be the overriding priority in a nowadays dynamic and highly complex context

Panel 4: Why Are People Forced to Flee?

This panel highlights the plurality of root causes of forced migration and discusses responsibilities, as well as potential strategies for action. What must be done by the local and international community to trigger a change?

Panel 5: Civil Society and Refugees: Lessons Learned

The support of various grassroots initiatives in the refugee response has been broadly applauded as an indication of humanity. The panel seeks to discuss the opportunities as well as the challenges such informal interventions bring.

Panel 6: Leaving No One Behind – A Mission Impossible?

The panel discussion deals with the issue of what needs to be done to get humanitarian assistance better aligned in a coordinated and comprehensive approach meeting the differing needs of the array of vulnerable groups.

Continue on page 2: About Austrian Humanitarian Aid Policy