Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


19 EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Policies and their Implementation in 2014

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsAnnual report on the EU's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Policies and their Implementation in 2014
Legal base
DepartmentInternational Development
Document Numbers(37059), 11538/15, COM(15) 406

Summary and Committee's conclusions

19.1 Headquartered in Brussels with a global network of field offices, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) aims to ensure rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance through its two main instruments: humanitarian aid and civil protection.

19.2 This annual Report outlines the Commission's main policy achievements and activities during 2014 in the field of humanitarian aid and civil protection.

19.3 In 2014, ECHO received a total commitment of €1,273 million (£926 million) in funding commitments. This included an additional injection of €346 million (£252 million) in payment appropriations to respond to unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, and to enable the Commission to meet commitments to operational partners. As a whole, the EU helped approximately 121 million people affected by man-made and natural disasters, and provided humanitarian aid to more than 80 countries.

19.4 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) notes the close alignment of ECHO and UK policy priorities, and her Department's close and constructive working relationship with ECHO in Brussels and in many of the countries/regions in which it has major country operations.

19.5 She also refers to the new Union Civil Protection Mechanism, noting that during the negotiation of the implementing rules, while recognising that EU level action can add a valuable role by facilitating mutual aid and sharing good practice, the Government: nonetheless maintained the position that civil protection is, and should remain, primarily a national responsibility; worked to ensure that the implementing rules reflected the agreed principle that the voluntary pool was genuinely based on voluntary cooperation and that the Commission did not have operational control over Member State assets; and ensured that the procedures and rules for invoking the "Solidarity Clause"[ 103] were based upon existing mechanisms and did not lead to the creation of new financial instruments (see "Background" for details).

19.6 As a factual summary of ECHO's policy work and operations in "year n", with no direct policy implications and no prospect of further consideration by the Council, we would not normally consider that this routine annual report warranted a substantive Report to the House. On this occasion, however, it has emerged at the same time as the Commission and the EU as a whole is gearing up for the first World Humanitarian Summit.

19.7 This has been called by the UN Secretary-General (on 23-24 May 2016 in Istanbul) at a time when the world is confronting an unprecedented level of risk and suffering associated with increasing natural disasters and conflict; where global trends — climate variability, rapid population growth, increased displacement, pressures on natural resources and extreme poverty — are also expected to increase demand on humanitarian action; and where, despite record donor contributions, humanitarian needs continue to outstrip available resources. The Summit is accordingly designed to enable all the relevant actors, including the EU, to reassess and reform humanitarian action so that it can better meet the needs of people affected by conflict and disasters beyond 2016.

19.8 The Commission Communication that we consider elsewhere in this Report outlines the European Commission's vision and key recommendations for the World Humanitarian Summit. It will be "worked up" in close cooperation and consultation with the Member States between now and next May.[ 104]

19.9 In the meantime, this annual report illustrates well just how important the EU's role is in this vital field.

19.10 We now clear the document.

Full details of the document: Annual Report on the European Union's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Policies and their Implementation in 2014: (37059), 11538/15, COM(15) 406.

Background

19.11 The European Commission's Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) aims to save and preserve life, prevent and alleviate human suffering and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Headquartered in Brussels with a global network of field offices, ECHO aims to ensure rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance through its two main instruments: humanitarian aid and civil protection. Since November 2014, ECHO operates under the mandate of Mr Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

19.12 The annual EU budget for humanitarian and civil protection actions amounts to approximately €1 billion (£733 billion); the total 2014-20 budget being €6.6 billion (£4.8 billion), with the precise annual figures being decided at the end of each year. An EU Emergency Aid Reserve can also be called upon to respond to unforeseen events and major crises, financing notably humanitarian, civilian crisis management and protection operations in non-EU countries. ECHO provides funding to over 200 partner organisations which implement humanitarian actions on the ground. These include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international organisations and United Nations agencies (UN).[ 105]

The 2014 Annual Report

19.13 In 2014, ECHO received a total commitment of €1,273 million (£926 million) in funding commitments. This included an additional injection of €346 million (£252 million) in payment appropriations to respond to unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, and to enable the Commission to meet commitments to operational partners. As a whole, the EU helped approximately 121 million people affected by man-made and natural disasters. They provided humanitarian aid to more than 80 countries.

HUMANITARIAN AID OPERATIONS

19.14 The report gives a number of examples, including:

—  as a major source of support for the people of Syria; more than 11 million people have now been displaced from their homes within the country and in the region. ECHO contributed to the total EU provision of more than €3 billion (£2 billion) in assistance to those within Syria, and to refugees in neighbouring countries;

—  the deteriorating situation in Iraq also triggered a significant increase in the EU's overall response in that country, of which ECHO was a part; the EU spent €163 million (£119 million) in 2014 to help internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees in Iraq;

—  in response to the Ebola crisis, ECHO provided a total of over €1.2 billion (£0.9 billion) in 2014. €414 million (£301 million) went directly to those countries affected and to medical research. ECHO participated in daily Ebola Task Force meetings, through which it coordinated its response alongside EU Member States and other organisations and partners. ECHO was also responsible for establishing an evacuation system for international aid workers;

—  assistance to eastern Ukraine increased more than twofold to €11.05 million (£8.04 million) to further help vulnerable and displaced persons following its initial emergency allocation in August 2014;

—  ECHO sustained its presence in the Central African Republic (CAR), having disbursed €55 million (£40 million) in to meet the needs of victims in CAR and in neighbouring countries; and

—  in South Sudan, ECHO mobilised over €110 million (£80 million) for humanitarian aid.

CIVIL PROTECTION OPERATIONS

—  the EU Children of Peace initiative received €6.7 million (£4.9 million) in 2014, through which it supported 155,000 children;

—  after its establishment in December 2013, the new Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) was activated 30 times in 2014, the majority related to natural disasters (there were nine requests in response to man-made disasters); and

—  the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) continued to act as the information hub and entry point for requests for assistance from EU Member States.

FINANCIAL AND HUMAN RESOURCES

19.15 ECHO saw a decrease to the amount of budget commitments from within the EU Budget. The growing gap between appeals and funding in humanitarian financing is affecting ECHO, as it is other donors; ECHO's payment appropriations were at a record high in 2014. To help meet outstanding payments, ECHO delegated an authorising officer to manage the situation including asking for budget reinforcements, reducing the level of pre-financing and postponing some final payments.

19.16 Approximately 98% of ECHO's 2014 humanitarian and civil protection budget was used for operational activities, whereas about 2% covered administrative and policy areas. ECHO works with a broad range of implementing partners. In 2014 this included 109 NGO partners (48% of its budget), 15 UN agencies (36% of its budget) and three international organisations (9% of its budget).

19.17 In 2014, the Commission had 328 staff members working at its headquarters, and 156 field experts and 325 local staff in ECHO's 39 field offices.

HUMANITARIAN AID AND CIVIL PROTECTION POLICY

19.18 Faced with an unprecedented number of concurrent crises in 2014, ECHO played a key role in enhancing collective humanitarian response and making the humanitarian system more efficient. As Chair of the UN OCHA Donor Support Group,[ 106] it led a number of important initiatives designed to strengthen the international humanitarian system, and has been active in the preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit.

19.19 As part of its role in producing guidance on thematic and cross-cutting issues, and sharing best practice, ECHO welcomed a range of organisations to its first EU Resilience Forum, together with the Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO).

19.20 Following the adoption of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism legislation at the end of 2013, Member States agreed on all necessary implementing provisions, including the rules for the functioning of the new voluntary pool of disaster-response assets. The Commission also began discussions with Member States on developing the new prevention elements in the new legislation, including the production of guidelines on risk management capability.

19.21 In June 2014 the Council adopted a decision on the rules and procedures for implementing the "solidarity clause". The implementation rules see the Union Civil Protection Mechanism as one of the key instruments to be mobilised in most cases when the clause is invoked, with the ERCC[ 107] playing a central role.

The Government's view

19.22 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 14 September 2015, the Minister (Baroness Verma) describes ECHO as well aligned with UK policy priorities, noting that DFID works closely and constructively with its ECHO counterparts in Brussels and in many of the countries/regions in which it has major country operations; and that, where the UK has limited bilateral presence, such as in the Sahel, ECHO plays a valuable role in addressing extreme vulnerability. DFID also maintained regular engagement with the Commission and other Member States through its participation in the Council Working Party on Humanitarian Aid (COHAFA). The Cabinet Office engaged regularly with ECHO and Member States, including through the Council Working Party of Civil Protection (PROCIV). The UK continued to help shape Commission priorities and activities.

19.23 The Minister says that she and her officials also continue to press for strengthened reporting across the humanitarian system in order to better track humanitarian outcomes and ensure value for money.

19.24 Noting that ECHO was subject to DFID's 2011 Multilateral Aid Review (MAR), and the "MAR Refresh" in 2013, the Minister says that, as part of a further MAR in 2015, her Department will assess ECHO's contribution to UK and international development objectives, and its performance in terms of delivery and organisational methods.

19.25 With regard to the new Union Civil Protection Mechanism, the Minister notes that, as the UK government lead for civil protection, the Cabinet Office negotiated the implementing rules on behalf of the UK:

"During this negotiation, HMG maintained the position that civil protection is, and should remain, primarily a national responsibility, but recognises that EU level action can add a valuable role by facilitating mutual aid and sharing good practice. Subsequently, HMG worked to ensure that the implementing rules reflected the principle agreed in the negotiations that the voluntary pool was genuinely based on voluntary cooperation and that the Commission did not have operational control over Member State assets. HMG supported the Commission's efforts to promote training, lessons learned and knowledge sharing among Member States, and encouraged the development of non-binding guidelines relating to risk management capability assessments.

"The Cabinet Office also led for the UK on the negotiations on the Decision relating to the implementing rules for the Solidarity Clause. HMG worked to ensure that the procedures and rules for a Solidarity Clause invocation were based upon existing mechanisms and did not lead to the creation of new financial instruments."

Previous Committee Reports

None.


103   Under the Lisbon Treaty, if a Member State is affected by a natural or man-made disaster or victim of a terrorist attack, the Union and other Member States must act jointly in a spirit of solidarity. Back

104   See (37067), 11667/15 + ADD 1: Commission Communication: Towards the World Humanitarian Summit: A global partnership for principled and effective humanitarian action, at chapter 7 of this Report. Back

105   See Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection for full information. Back

106   OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. The OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG) is a group of donors who acts as a 'sounding board' and a source of advice on policy, management, budgetary and financial questions. Its goal is to support OCHA in fulfilling its mandate. ODSG members commit to provide political, financial and technical support towards fulfilling OCHA's mandated coordination activities. In 2014, ODSG members provided 93 per cent ($221.8 million) of OCHA's voluntary contributions, as well as considerable policy and advocacy support. See UNOCHA for full information. Back

107   The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), operating within the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), was set up to support a coordinated and quicker response to disasters both inside and outside Europe using resources from the countries participating in the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. The ERCC replaces and upgrades the functions of the previous Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC). See Emergency Response Coordination Centre for full information. Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015