38 European Community emergency and humanitarian
|Commission Report: Directorate General for Humanitarian Assistance (ECHO) Annual Report 2006
|4 August 2006
|Deposited in Parliament
|22 August 2006
|Basis of consideration
|EM of 5 September 2006
|Previous Committee Report
|To be discussed in Council
|To be determined
38.1 The European Union as a whole (i.e., the 25 Member States
and the Commission) is one of the world's main humanitarian aid
donors; the Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) is the service
of the European Commission responsible for this activity.
38.2 The table gives a breakdown of ECHO expenditure
over the last five years:
|In millions of euros
The Commission Report
38.3 The document fulfils the requirements laid down by the Development
Council in 1993 that the Commission should report annually on
emergency and humanitarian aid activities through the European
Community Humanitarian Office (now DG ECHO). It gives a detailed
account by region and country of the humanitarian assistance provided
in 2005 to support activities in over sixty countries
a 14% increase over 2004, largely attributable to the tsunami
response (which alone totalled 122.8 million/£83 million),
leading to the first time in recent years in which spending in
Asia and Central & South America (40%) overtook that on the
Africa, Caribbean and Pacific region (37%). Individual country
reports in the annex set out assessment of needs, ECHO's objectives
and achievement against objectives.
38.4 The report draws attention to DG ECHO's use
of two methodologies to support its decisions on funding allocations:
global needs assessment methodology, which it uses to identify
the geographical areas in highest need according to nine humanitarian
its methodology for identifying "forgotten
crises" (areas of high need combined with low donor support).
The report notes that 48% of DG ECHO's funding was allocated to
forgotten crises in 2005 (an increase from 42% last year).
38.5 The report also notes ECHO's continued involvement
in the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative and its promotion
of a "principled approach" to the provision of
humanitarian aid "independence, impartiality, neutrality
and the objective assessment of need".
38.6 On the Commission's approach to wider humanitarian
reform issues the report simply notes that DG ECHO followed developments
closely and that the Commissioner spoke on the subject to the
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in Geneva in December 2005.
It notes the Commission's own initiative, following the tsunami,
to increase its numbers of field experts in order to boost emergency
surge capacity (the capacity for emergency staff deployment) in
The Government view
38.7 In his 5 September 2006 Explanatory Memorandum,
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for
International Development (Mr Gareth Thomas) says that, in November
2004, the UK participated with other Member States in formal discussions
with DG ECHO on its global humanitarian strategy for 2005, and
in successive months on individual Global Plans (country strategies)
and Emergency Decisions to be funded under the strategy. "In
our view, DG ECHO's strategies were generally appropriate to the
situation on the ground, and have been developed in consultation
with other relevant actors."
38.8 He supports the Commission's attention to financing
forgotten crises, and recalls that "the Secretary of State's
reform speech of December 2004 called for DG ECHO to consider
becoming the financier of last resort for neglected emergencies.
While DG ECHO have declined to take on this role formally, their
practice of formally identifying and prioritising such crises
for funding is welcome." He continues as follows:
"We would have liked the report to be more explicit
on the Commission's approach to humanitarian reform. Commissioner
Michel's speech to the IASC identified four specific areas where
he considered reform was needed: increasing overall humanitarian
funding; ensuring equity in response to humanitarian crises, particularly
to forgotten or neglected crises; improving emergency response
capacity; and improving risk reduction and preparedness strategies.
"We agree with the importance of these areas,
and support most of DG ECHO's actions in these areas for
example, the provision of 'thematic' or capacity-building funding
to some of the major agencies to support emergency preparedness
by prepositioning supplies. However, we think the Commission as
a whole could do more on disaster risk reduction; and we would
have preferred to see DG ECHO fund increased surge capacity within
other humanitarian organisations rather than increase their own
field capacity which we consider to have been about promoting
European visibility on the ground. We would also like the Commission
to have contributed to the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund
as a means of supporting swift action by UN agencies. We continue
to discuss these issues with DG ECHO."
38.9 The Minister says that the UK's share of expenditure
in 2005 was approximately 17%, (114m, or £77m).
38.10 He concludes by saying that "the report
may be considered by the Council Development Co-operation Working
Group and the European Parliament's Committee on Development.
No dates for these consultations have yet been announced."
38.11 The picture painted is generally encouraging.
But the likelihood is of more, not fewer, humanitarian crises,
which by their very nature require the most rapid and effective
response rather than "promoting European visibility".
We would therefore have liked to have seen more evidence of the
Council getting a grip on some of the areas in which both the
Commissioner and the Minister would like to see changes made,
rather than the impression of drift and low-level attention that
38.12 We should therefore like the Minister, when
he submits next year's Report, to report on what has been done
to address these issues.
38.13 We now clear the document, which we report
to the House because of the level of interest in the subject matter.
91 See http://ec.europa.eu/echo/statist21ics/echo en.htm
for this and other details of ECHO activities. Back