EuronAid General Assembly Adopts Code of Conduct on Food Aid and Food Security
by Humanitarian Practice Network September 1995

Food aid is the subject of a new code of conduct. At its recent General Assembly, EuronAid members unanimously adopted a Code of Conduct for NGOs involved in food aid and food security programmes.

EuronAid, a consortium of NGOs active in the field of food aid and food security, exists to facilitate the access of NGOs to institutional donors (primarily the European Commission). NGOs of different sizes and from all countries of the European Union can benefit from EuronAid’s services, increasing their opportunities to obtain support for food aid and food security programmes.

The Code of Conduct explores NGOs’ motivation for undertaking food aid and food security programmes, emphasising their responsibility to people who have insufficient access to food.

This document, by promoting work practices that respect people’s rights, partnerships and responsibilities, expresses the joint commitment of European NGOs to implement food aid projects which achieve high programme standards and strict rules of accountability, while aiming at food security sustainable in the long term.

The adoption of this Code comes at a time of important developments in the field of international emergency and development aid, as NGOs face ever greater challenges in the provision of relief and food aid and ever greater demands for accountability to beneficiaries and donors alike. Since its adoption by members, the EuronAid Code of Conduct has been taken up by the NGDO EC Liaison Committee where discussions are currently taking place on the adoption of a Europe-wide Code of Conduct on food aid and food security.



May 1995

  1. The Issue

We are Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) brought together by a common purpose: to assist the people who are food insecure throughout the world to become food secure. We are motivated by the recognition that an important part of the world population is suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to man-made or natural disasters and structural problems. In particular, low-income groups regularly face acute shortages with dramatic consequences, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, children and the elderly. To meet this challenge, food is only one of the resources which are necessary, yet it is an important one. Our imperative is to use it efficiently and effectively.

We define food security as “Access at all times, by all people, to enough food to lead active, healthy lives”. (A detailed breakdown of what is understood by this statement can be obtained from the complete Code of Conduct published by EuronAid).

  1. Our Responsibilities as Non-governmental Organisations

Our food security orientation requires that we engage in a wide range of programmes combatting the causes of food insecurity, including those focused on agriculture, income and job creation, community health, education, water and environmental issues.

It further requires that we act to minimise negative effects on food security by factors outside our direct influence, such as civil conflicts, natural disasters, government and donor policies.

The activities we undertake are prompted first and foremost by our responsibility to the people we serve. We also recognise our responsibility to donors (private and institutional) who make our action possible. We are limited by the nature and extent of our resources. Within these limits, we seek to be efficient and effective.

The People We Serve

Access to food is a fundamental human right

We affirm that access to food is a fundamental human right; we consider hunger in a world with enough food to feed all its people to be morally and politically unacceptable.

We assist populations which are the most needy and vulnerable and do not discriminate on the basis of gender, colour, caste, creed or age. But we do target specific groups when these are the most in need of external support. These are generally vulnerable groups such as women and children, the elderly, or entire groups such as refugees or displaced persons who are totally dependent on the outside world for their food.

Our belief in equality commits us to the advancement of the role of women in development. We recognise the importance of women as both food producers and food managers. We also consider that the active participation of community members in the programmes is the cornerstone of development.

Now and in the long term

While we are committed to achieving sustainable solutions to hunger, we recognise the need for specific responses in emergencies and for areas or groups with permanent serious food deficits. Yet, beyond merely providing hungry people with their next meal, we ultimately wish to see them provide it for themselves.

Wherever possible, even in emergencies, we develop activities leading towards long-term famine mitigation or increased food security.

The best prevention of and response to famine is to reduce the vulnerability of those most at risk. When short-term measures are required, they should as far as possible contribute to, rather than detract from, sustainable development.

Working with Donors

Responding to individual donors

We recognise the essential contribution made by individual donors to our action. Private donations are the guarantee of our independence and our flexibility. Our supporters are our base, not only because of their financial support, but also because of their commitment to promote our aims through political and public opinion channels.

We have a responsibility to thoroughly inform our supporters of our actions and on development policy issues with which we are confronted. This responsibility extends to ensuring that our supporters have detailed accounts of how resources entrusted to us have been used.

Partnership with institutional donors

Institutional donors are major contributors of food and funds for our food-related programmes. We appreciate the important role these organisations have in making our work possible. We seek to form with them partnerships based on mutual respect.

Within these partnerships, we are accountable for the resources at our disposition as well as progress towards agreed objectives. We also have a responsibility to exchange information and experience with institutional donors in order to promote better policies and procedures in a dynamic relationship.

  1. Implementation of Programmes

We thoroughly analyse each situation to identify the contributing factors

Food insecurity is a complex problem that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Our effectiveness depends upon our ability to identify and address the root causes of food insecurity for each population we target.

In order to design effective programmes, we have to fully understand local production, consumption, distribution and decision-making systems and anticipate how they will interact with project goals.

We recognise the central importance of coordination in the field of food aid

We commit ourselves to coordinate as far as possible with other relevant agencies and to fully cooperate with local coordination mechanisms wherever they exist, thereby ensuring that food aid globally corresponds to identified needs and that its use by the different actors involved takes place in a coherent framework.

We pay special attention to specific implementation requirements related to food

We pay attention particularly to the timing of food mobilisation and delivery for two reasons. Firstly, food is a perishable commodity which cannot afford to be stored too long, especially in tropical circumstances. Secondly, in cases where food is imported, timely distribution or sale is essential to prevent adverse effects on local markets.

In circumstances where beneficiaries rely primarily or solely on food aid for their survival, we seek to ensure that the rations provided are nutritionally balanced and contain all the essential nutrients. We therefore urge donors to provide a wide range of commodities and to ensure that the timing of deliveries takes account of seasonal variations and allows for a balanced food basket to be delivered.

When it is appropriate or necessary to monetise food aid, we do it with utmost care, ensuring that the timing and the sale price do not bring about harmful effects on the local markets, such as unfair competition with local products.

We promote local or regional purchases wherever possible

In many countries or regions, pockets of need co-exist with surplus areas. In these situations, we promote the use of locally produced and processed food, because it contributes to the development of local markets, reduces costs, improves timing and provides the type of food people are accustomed to. Whenever possible, these purchases should be made from local producers’ organisations, thereby promoting their access to the market.

  1. Management

We favour participatory management approaches

We seek to base our management approach on the principle that it is improper for individuals or organisations with power to take responsibility for matters which those with less power can accomplish by their own initiative. Thus, as much as possible, we involve existing community institutions and structures in the development of appropriate response strategies, like disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies as well as relief, rehabilitation and development programmes.

We seek to establish partnerships with local, regional and national institutions. Such institutions tend to be more familiar with the conditions and processes of local development and are commonly accepted by community members.

We recognise the need for adequate funding for the full support of project operations including appropriate management and technical staff

Central to project success and global achievement, are the careful planning of project activities and the provision of material and personnel for their efficient execution. NGOs together with institutional donors, should seek to make available the necessary resources. In particular, the provision of food in kind should be accompanied by adequate resources to cover the strengthening of local partners’ capacity and any necessary material input. 

To ensure maximum impact, we monitor project management and evaluate progress towards clearly stated objectives

We use food aid resources – in the form of funds or commodities – to develop and implement programmes that incorporate clearly defined goals, related time frames, and where possible, measurable indicators of achievement.

We are committed to alleviating the immediate effects of food insecurity while addressing long-term solutions. Time frames should be well defined and related to goal achievement. They will vary depending upon the nature of the project, but should be set with the understanding that eventually our interventions will be phased out.

NGOs, together with institutional donors, should seek to make resources available for evaluations. Evaluations should be an integral part of the programme design and actively involve the local partners and beneficiary communities. Results should be as far as possible measurable at the individual, household and/or community levels. Evaluation recommendations should be incorporated into future project design.