copy the linklink copied!7. Austria’s approach to fragility, crises and humanitarian assistance

This chapter first reviews Austria’s efforts to engage in fragile, conflict and crisis contexts. It assesses Austria’s political directives and strategies for working in these contexts; the extent to which programmes are designed coherently to address key drivers of fragility, conflict and disaster risk; and the needs of women and the most vulnerable; and whether systems, processes and people work together effectively in responding to crises.

The second part of the chapter considers Austria’s efforts to fulfil the principles and good practices of humanitarian donorship. It looks at the political directives and strategies for humanitarian assistance; the effectiveness of Austria’s humanitarian programming and whether it targets the highest risk to life and livelihoods; and whether approaches and partnerships ensure high-quality assistance.

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In Brief

A commitment to peace and conflict prevention has led Austria to develop strategies linking security and development. While these strategies are now dated, they are mostly still relevant. However, in implementing its commitment to conflict prevention, Austria is limited by the lack of a specific instrument and budget focusing on stability and conflict prevention. This means that development co-operation and fragmented humanitarian aid are the only mechanisms available to respond to crises.

Because Austria focuses on conflict prevention, risk analysis is embedded in its programming. Since the migration crisis in Europe, Austria has given development co-operation a role in addressing the root causes of migration, which mostly emphasises the economic dimension. A specific conflict prevention instrument could help Austria to refine its fragility analysis and better link peace and development.

Austria has stable partnerships with its fragile partner countries, and crisis-affected areas are receiving greater attention. Austria’s development co-operation can adapt to crises but implementing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus remains a challenge in practice. Austria is fully part of European Union joint programming, but the number of Austrian government stakeholders involved limits coherence when Austria engages with other multilateral actors.

While Austria has scaled up its humanitarian budget through the Foreign Disaster Fund, its overall humanitarian action remains fragmented across a variety of sources. With increasing resources, the Council of Ministers’ direct involvement in each humanitarian project funding decision is an oddity that is detrimental to Austria’s predictability and independence. An evaluation of the challenges and achievements of its humanitarian response in recent years could help Austria to update its humanitarian strategy within the framework of its comprehensive response to crises.

While Austria is capable of responding rapidly to disasters through its National Crisis and Disaster Protection Management mechanism, internal procedures do not allow Austria to make the most of its domestic humanitarian community. Partly as a consequence, Austria channels most of its humanitarian funding through the multilateral system.

copy the linklink copied!7.A. Crises and fragility

copy the linklink copied!Strategic framework

Peace and conflict prevention are central to Austria’s foreign policy

Building on its focus on conflict prevention (Chapter 1) and its global reputation in international mediation (Gebhard, 2013[1]), Austria supports the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) role in early warning and conflict prevention, in addition to its security-related activities. Austria is increasingly conscious that security and development are linked, and now strives to align its development co-operation priorities with this peace agenda. The promotion and protection of human rights are high priorities in Austria’s foreign policy (MFA, 2019[2]). This is also firmly reflected in Austria’s support for a broad range of human rights activities through multilateral channels (Chapter 3).1

The strategic framework is dated but mostly still valid

Austria’s security strategy focuses on early crisis detection, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-crisis rehabilitation, as well as protection of civilians during conflicts (Federal Chancellery, 2013[3]). A strategic document also guides Austria’s understanding of security and development (MFA, 2011[4]). While this guideline remains mostly valid, it was written before 2014 and does not cover forced displacement and migration, which was not considered a major topic in Austria’s development co-operation at that time. However, it has since become one. The Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has also drawn up its own guidelines on peacebuilding and conflict prevention (ADC, 2006[5]), usefully complemented by a specific focus document on development co-operation in fragile contexts (ADC, 2014[6]). On the other hand, Austria’s humanitarian policy document (ADC, 2009[7]) is outdated, and does not reflect Austria’s current humanitarian engagement.

Most official development assistance does not go to fragile states

While crisis regions and fragile states are new geographical priorities (MFA, 2019[8]), Austria does not have a budget dedicated to fragility and stabilisation, or a funding target for these contexts. As a result, bilateral ODA to fragile contexts has been very variable since the last review.2

Austria’s humanitarian assistance has increased steadily over recent years, to reach USD 58.4 million of disbursements in 2017 (Chapter 3). It is funded through a range of budget sources from federal ministries and provincial governments, making it particularly fragmented (Figure 7.1). This fragmentation is detrimental to the coherence and the global overview of Austria’s humanitarian aid.

In response to this fragmentation, the Foreign Disaster Fund (FDF) managed by ADA is increasingly becoming the main financial source of humanitarian aid. The FDF is endowed with a EUR 15 million (USD 12.7 million) annual allocation3 (ADA, 2019[9]). As the FDF is already used for limited civilian prevention and stability activities, Austria could consider broadening its scope and size to make it a more comprehensive instrument to be mobilised in fragile states and in case of crises.

copy the linklink copied!Effective programme design and instruments

A whole-of-government approach is taken where crises have implications for Austria

Building on Austria’s understanding that peace and sustainable development are indivisible, the government has introduced the “3C” approach (coherent, complementary and co-ordinated) amongst relevant actors in security and development policies. This translates into more regular exchange of information and review, mainly between the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and ADA. For crises which have a direct impact on Austria’s security, the Ministry of Defence also initiates cross-government analysis and programming. The Austrian security strategy (Government of Austria, 2013[10]) establishes an annual meeting to review all countries and territories in crisis in which Austria has interests. The situation and outlook are reviewed for each, and decisions are taken on Austria’s engagement. This comes close to a whole-of-government approach to crises, and there is scope to replicate this mechanism for each crisis in order to define the best instruments to meet Austria's objectives in each context.

Risk analysis is mandatory, even in non-fragile contexts

Risk-informed context analysis and programming are rooted in Austria’s development co-operation. As early as 2006, the peacebuilding and conflict prevention policy paper insisted on the need to analyse the conflict potential in Austria’s development interventions (ADC, 2006[5]). Risk analysis is now mandatory for all projects and is part of Austria’s programming cycle, even in non-fragile contexts (Chapter 4). This is good practice as understanding the risks and the potential for conflict makes all the more sense before a crisis unfolds.

A specific mechanism could strengthen Austria’s conflict prevention

Conflict prevention is a key element of Austria’s engagement in fragile contexts, underpinned by its efforts at the global level. Austria is aware when the situation deteriorates in partner countries. However, it lacks an instrument that is agile and nimble enough to mobilise the rapid and flexible support required to help prevent crises from escalating. Instead, Austria relies on its traditional development co-operation. It supports inter-governmental approaches in East Africa4 and West Africa,5 and multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations in Mali.6 These channels are used because most crisis contexts are not in partner countries and territories, and Austria has limited field presence. As a result, Austria relies on its implementing partners to monitor the impact of its engagement.

In addition, Austria provides bilateral support in its priority countries or territories. Austria is flexible and can design well-targeted structural prevention programmes (Box 7.1). However, direct conflict prevention often requires short-term initiatives that are put in place at a critical moment with the aim of de-escalating tensions or violence (Sida, 2017[11]), something Austria is not able to mobilise easily. Broadening the scope and the size of the Foreign Disaster Fund beyond strict humanitarian assistance could be one option to do so.

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Box 7.1. Resolving cross-border conflicts in West Africa

Cross-border conflicts and tensions among Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau have a destabilising effect on the West African region. Frequent causes of clashes are the unregulated control and ill-defined rights of access to forest resources, livestock theft, small arms trafficking and petty crime. To contain these problems, the Austrian Development Agency is supporting the non-government organisation ENDA with its project “Strengthening local capacities in the field of conflict prevention and peace-building in the border areas of Senegambia”, helping to train local organisations and civil society in cross-border courses on conflict resolution and peacebuilding (mediation, peace negotiations, dialogue, reconciliation, etc.). The programme also supports a broad range of small-scale initiatives with the close involvement of civil society in drafting local and regional action and development plans. Involving local governments also ensures ownership of local development plans. The establishment of a dialogue platform (Plateforme sénégambienne) facilitates the direct exchange of experience and approaches among stakeholders across national boundaries. It promotes co-operation and joint cross-border peacebuilding initiatives implemented via small projects.

Source: (ENDA, 2013[12]), Renforcement des capacités locales dans le domaine de la prévention de conflits et construction de la paix dans les zones frontalières de Sénégambie méridionale (in French).

Austria takes a combined approach to forced displacement and migration

As in-donor refugee costs were escalating in 2015 and 2016,7 Austria started to link development co-operation with its migration agenda. While forced displacement and migration were not specifically addressed in policy documents prior to 2015, these issues became prominent in Austria’s three-year programme after the migration crisis started in Europe (MFA, 2016[13]). In response to these mixed migration flows, on top of developing specific instruments and programmes addressing migration, Austria increased its support to multilateral channels (Chapter 3), such as the sub-window for refugees in the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA);8 and the European Union Trust Funds,9 such as the ‘Madad’ Fund and the European Trust Fund for Africa. Austria is also a regular contributor to UNHCR (UNHCR, 2019[14]) and has signed up to the Global Compact on Refugees (UNGA, 2018[15]).

Austria believes that providing economic opportunities in countries of origin addresses the root causes of migration, while being aware that migration is not the result of a single determinant. The people who choose to migrate are not the poorest, and issues like social inequalities and human rights can also be key push factors (Bacon and Robin, 2018[16]). ADA has developed a focus paper on migration to clarify what migration, including forced displacement, means for development co-operation (ADA, 2016[17]). The paper provides examples and helps to identify the roles of various stakeholders along migration routes, including those involved in humanitarian aid or anti-trafficking. This focus paper could help government co-ordination and could usefully be widely shared across the government.

Gender is taken into account in Austria’s conflict programming

Austria is committed to strengthening the role of women in armed conflicts, and notably to involving women in peace processes. In 2007 Austria adopted a national action plan for implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This was revised in 2012 (MFA, 2012[18]). ADA has translated policies into guidance to ensure ownership by staff and ensure they take into account the gender aspect of programming in crisis contexts (ADA, 2019[19]) (Chapter 2).

copy the linklink copied!Effective delivery and partnerships

Bilateral partnerships are stable

Out of Austria’s 11 partner countries and territories, 6 are considered fragile or in crisis.10 Crisis regions and fragile states are geographic priorities for Austria (MFA, 2019[8]). Austria defines itself as a stable partner and has been supporting the same countries and territories for decades. While priorities set in country strategies are stable, Austria is flexible enough to adapt to evolving political or security situations. For example, following a coup in Burkina Faso in 2015, Austria was able to adapt its programming and support the political transition and the electoral process.

Multilateral partnerships could be more coherent

Most of Austria’s engagement in fragile or crisis contexts is channelled through multilateral organisations, including the international financial institutions. Austria values its participation in donor support groups, and finds them particularly helpful for influencing multilateral organisations and ensuring accountability. In response to crises, Austria’s support is softly earmarked and administrative requirements are lean. However, some multilateral organisations are concerned about the lack of consistency across Austria’s different sources of funding, which creates unnecessary bureaucracy (Chapter 3).

The European Union is Austria’s main co-ordination platform

Austria is an active member of EU joint programming and sees the EU as its main co-ordination and burden-sharing platform (Chapter 5). In some fragile areas, such as in Gaza and the West Bank, this is an effective way to engage in a politically sensitive context. It also avoids burdening host countries and territories which have limited capacity to manage numerous bilateral partnerships.

Implementing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus remains a challenge

The fact that crisis response to crises and prevention are clear elements of Austria’s security strategy (Federal Chancellery, 2013[3]) and its foreign and development policy (ADC, 2016[20]) provide a good basis for a coherent approach to Austria’s engagement in fragile and crisis contexts. The strategic guideline on security and development (MFA, 2011[21])sets the priorities for security, development and humanitarian instruments in different crisis-related situations. Like many other Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members, implementing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus remains a challenge, as seen in Kosovo (Annex C). A recent evaluation has shown that these three dimensions still function as separate silos (Boss and Dittli, 2017[22]). As a result, the nexus is not yet fully integrated in a systematic way.11

copy the linklink copied!7.B. Humanitarian assistance

copy the linklink copied!Humanitarian assistance strategic framework

Austria’s outdated humanitarian strategy no longer reflects its approach

Austria’s 2009 humanitarian policy (ADC, 2009[7]) has not been updated despite the fact that much has changed. The policy places a strong emphasis on disaster response, yet Austria’s humanitarian assistance is almost exclusively deployed in conflict areas. In addition the strategy’s sequential approach is not relevant in these situations. As such, the strategy is not aligned with the reality of Austria’s current humanitarian response and funding, and is not linked to Austria’s commitments at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (Agenda for Humanity, 2016[23]). Updating the humanitarian strategy would allow Austria to complete the work it has already started in programming in crises and help its staff implement the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian, Development and Peace Nexus [OECD/LEGAL/5019] (OECD, 2019[24]).

copy the linklink copied!Effective humanitarian programming

Austria’s humanitarian assistance is fragmented

Austria’s humanitarian assistance is mainly delivered by ADA through the Foreign Disaster Fund (FDF). The FDF is decided every year, and has in-built flexibility. However, up to seven other ministries or public entities also provide humanitarian assistance.12 With no clear co-ordination mechanism in place, this makes Austria’s humanitarian assistance fragmented13 and undermines Austria’s profile in responding to crises.

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Figure 7.1. Many organisations contribute to humanitarian aid (2014-2017)
Figure 7.1. Many organisations contribute to humanitarian aid (2014-2017)

Note: The chart reflects Austria’s government institutions reporting to the OECD Creditor Reporting System between 2014 and 2017 (last available figure).

Source: Adapted from OECD Creditor Reporting System (database) (OECD, 2019[25]), (accessed July 2019)


Austria’s humanitarian assistance is at high risk of politicisation

While the FDF is determined annually by the government, the Council of Ministers also decides which projects to support in each humanitarian response. Such high-level decision making for projects is unusual and does not benefit Austria’s humanitarian effectiveness. It makes Austria an unpredictable humanitarian donor, dependent on current political priorities such as curbing migration flows (Federal Minister for Europe, 2016[26]) rather than on objective humanitarian criteria. This decision-making process runs counter to the main global humanitarian policy trends and is not aligned with Austria’s commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit (Agenda for Humanity, 2016[23]). As the FDF is approved annually by the Council of Ministers, Austria’s humanitarian assistance would be more fit-for-purpose and nimble if decisions on individual projects were made at a more appropriate working level.

A new evaluation could inform Austria’s humanitarian strategy

Austria does not have the capacity to monitor its humanitarian programme in a systematic way. Because it knows its capacity is low, Austria invests upfront in risk analysis and selects quality partners to mitigate risk. However, such measures limit Austria’s direct efforts to strengthen the capacity of frontline responders – one of its commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit (Agenda for Humanity, 2016[23]). The last evaluation of Austria’s humanitarian response covered the period 2004-2008 (ADA, 2009[27]). A new evaluation focusing on achievements in the past few years would draw out lessons and help Austria to update its humanitarian strategy.

copy the linklink copied!Effective delivery, partnerships and instruments of humanitarian assistance

Rapid response mechanisms work well

Austria’s civil protection engages in international missions, and its system is well connected within the European civil protection mechanism. The Ministry of Interior also manages a specific EUR 700 000 annual budget to complement its civil protection engagement with in-kind donations. Austria can also deploy military assets as needed. Emergency actions are co-ordinated under the National Crisis and Disaster Protection Management (Federal Ministry of Interior, 2019[28]). Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Austria also has flexibility to reallocate some of its development funds to emergencies, as occurred during the 2019 cyclones in Mozambique where it reallocated funds to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to rebuild some local capacities.

An updated humanitarian policy could guide Austria’s response in protracted crises

Most of Austria’s humanitarian aid is delivered in protracted crises. Through the 3C approach, humanitarian aid will increasingly be part of a coherent Austrian response to crises. In 2017, ADA organised a call for Austrian civil society organisations to submit projects to link humanitarian assistance and long-term development measures in refugee hosting contexts (MFA, 2019[29]). An updated humanitarian policy could strengthen Austria’s approach to the nexus.

Partnerships with humanitarian NGOs could be more responsive and strategic

The humanitarian community in Austria is essentially composed of local branches of international humanitarian NGO networks, channelling around 15% of the Foreign Disaster Fund. Austria’s partnership with the humanitarian community is framed through co-ordination and accreditation. A co-ordination platform allows information to be exchanged among these NGOs and the various ministries involved in humanitarian assistance. However, until Austria updates its humanitarian strategy, this platform cannot be strategic. Funding from ADA is available to the 10 accredited Austrian NGOs, which reduces some red tape but still requires calls for proposals to respond to humanitarian needs. These calls for proposals are only organised once a response has been approved by the Council of Ministers and when funds are transferred to ADA. This does not make best use of the accreditation system.


[9] ADA (2019), Foreign Disaster Fund (FDF), (accessed on 29 July 2019).

[19] ADA (2019), Strategies for implementing and focus papers, (accessed on 26 July 2019).

[17] ADA (2016), Focus Paper on Migration and Development, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 18 July 2019).

[27] ADA (2009), Evaluation of the Humanitarian Aid of the Austrian Development Cooperation, 2004 - 2008 (Executive Summary),

[20] ADC (2016), Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2016-2018, (accessed on 1 April 2019).

[6] ADC (2014), Focus: Development cooperation in fragile states and regions, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[7] ADC (2009), International Humanitarian Aid Policy Document, Austrian Development Cooperation, Vienna, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[5] ADC (2006), Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, Austrian Development Cooperation, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[23] Agenda for Humanity (2016), Individual and Joint Commitments, database, Agenda for Humanity, (accessed on 26 July 2019).

[16] Bacon, L. and N. Robin (2018), State of the art. The root causes of irregular migration in the region of the Rabat Process, International Centre for Migration Policy Development,

[22] Boss, M. and R. Dittli (2017), Evaluation. Review of the Strategic Guideline for Security and Development and its Implementation between 2011–2016. Executive Summary, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 8 February 2019).

[12] ENDA (2013), Renforcement des capacités locales dans le domaine de la prévention de conflits et construction de la paix dans les zones frontalières de Sénégambie méridionale, (accessed on 26 July 2019).

[3] Federal Chancellery (2013), Austrian Security Strategy - Security in a new decade-Shaping security, (accessed on 12 July 2019).

[26] Federal Minister for Europe, I. (2016), Statement by Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria,

[28] Federal Ministry of Interior (2019), National Crisis and Disaster Management, Federal Ministry of Interior, Vienna,

[1] Gebhard, C. (2013), “Is small still beautiful? The case of Austria”, Swiss Political Science Review, Vol. 19/3, pp. 279-297,

[10] Government of Austria (2013), Austrian Security Strategy Security in a new decade-Shaping security, (accessed on 17 June 2019).

[29] MFA (2019), DAC Peer Review Memorandum, Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Vienna.

[2] MFA (2019), Human Rights – BMEIA, Außenministerium Österreich, Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, (accessed on 12 July 2019).

[8] MFA (2019), Working together. For our world. Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2019-2021, (accessed on 25 June 2019).

[13] MFA (2016), The future needs development. Development needs a future. Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2016-2018, Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, (accessed on 17 July 2019).

[18] MFA (2012), Revised National Action Plan on Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[4] MFA (2011), Security and Development in Austrian development policy Strategic Guideline, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[21] MFA (2011), Security and Development in Austrian development policy Strategic Guideline, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[24] OECD (2019), DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, OECD Legal Instruments, (accessed on 10 April 2019).

[25] OECD (2019), International Development Statistics,

[11] Sida (2017), Conflict Prevention: Opportunities and challenges in implementing key policy commitments and priorities, Sida, Stockholm, (accessed on 31 July 2019).

[15] UNGA (2018), Global Compact on Refugees, United Nations, New York, (accessed on 16 April 2019).

[14] UNHCR (2019), UNHCR Funding Update 2018, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva,


← 1. For example, Austria supports the human dimensions of the OSCE, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It also hosts and supports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in line with Austria’s focus on fighting drug and organised crime.

← 2. Between 2014 and 2017, bilateral ODA to fragile states declined from USD 172 million to USD 124 million. The share of humanitarian aid rose from 3% to 9% over the same period (OECD Creditor Reporting System, 2017 constant price, commitment, accessed August 2019).

← 3. In 2017 the annual allocation was EUR 20 million (USD 17 million). In 2018 it was EUR 15 million (USD 12.6 million) with EUR 5 million (USD 4.2 million) reserve.

← 4. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a regional grouping created on 21 March 1996 involving seven East African economies: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Its mission is to achieve peace, prosperity and regional integration in the IGAD region. See

← 5. The Economic Community of West African States (Communauté Economique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, ECOWAS) is a 15-member regional group with a mandate to promote economic integration in all fields of activity of its member countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo). See

← 6. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali or MINUSMA) was established on 25 April 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2100. See

← 7. In-donor refugee costs grew from USD 97.5 million in 2014 to USD 615.2 million in 2016, before reducing to USD 153.2 million in 2017, Creditor Reporting System, (accessed July 2019).

← 8. Austria’s contribution to the 18th replenishment of the IDA was EUR 638 million,

← 9. Austria is the 4th largest contributor to the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (EUR 13.5 million),, and the 15th largest to the EU Regional Trust Fund for Africa (EUR 8 million)

← 10. These are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique, Kosovo, West Bank and Gaza Strip.

← 11. Mali, for example, is not a partner country. Nevertheless, Austria held the command of the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali for the second half of 2019. Elements of development and humanitarian aid were brought in to support the narrative of a nexus, but not through a coherent whole-of-government analysis.

← 12. In 2017, humanitarian assistance was delivered by the Austrian Development Agency, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Defence, the Federal Government of Austria, the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Federal Ministry of Interior (for civil protection purposes), as well as provincial governments and local communities.

← 13. In 2017, for example, Austria deployed humanitarian assistance to 28 countries in addition to regional projects.

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