Documents considered by the Committee on 13 January 2016 - European Scrutiny Contents


8 EU humanitarian assistance

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information required; drawn to the attention of the International Development Committee
Document detailsCommission Staff Working Document: General Guidelines for Operational Priorities on Humanitarian Aid in 2016
Legal base
DepartmentInternational Development
Document Numbers(37348), 14695/15, SWD(15) 267

Summary and Committee's conclusions

8.1 The General Guidelines for Operational Priorities on Humanitarian Aid in 2015 examine the humanitarian aid operations for 2016 of the European Commission Directorate for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO, or DG ECHO), set out an indicative budget allocation and frame the Commission humanitarian policy focus.

8.2 Headquartered in Brussels with a global network of field offices, 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 via the rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance.

8.3 The Commission Staff Working Document outlines commitments in a number of key policy areas:

·  Improving Aid Effectiveness;

·  Enhancing Protection;

·  Supporting education in emergencies;

·  Shelter and Settlement;

·  Urban Settings;

·  Multi-purpose cash-based assistance;

·  Mainstreaming Resilience objectives;

·  A comprehensive evaluation of Humanitarian Aid in early 2016;

·  Effectiveness through implementing the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid;[25]

·  Effectiveness at global level, notably in the context of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit;

·  Enhanced funding for communication; and

·  Disaster Risk Reduction (see "Background" for details).

8.4 The 2016 budget for humanitarian aid, food assistance and disaster preparedness is €1.074 billion (£756 million), with the breakdown of the planned allocation by region being:

·  44% Africa;

·  38% Middle East, European Neighbourhood;

·  9% Asia & Pacific;

·  4% Central & South America, Caribbean;

·  3% Worldwide disasters; and

·  2% complementary operations (including technical assistance, enhanced response capacity, Network on Humanitarian Action,[26] and communication projects).

8.5 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) notes that DFID's 2011 Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) concluded that DG ECHO provides very good value for money (VFM). She says that DFID is closely engaged on both policy and delivery through participation in Council working party meetings, bilateral engagement with other Member States on priority policy and operational areas, and engagement directly with DG ECHO in Brussels and in countries where the UK has a bilateral aid programme. She supports DG ECHO's "rigorous approach to allocating funding, in line with its mission to determine aid on the basis of need and its mandate to meet gaps in the humanitarian system".

8.6 The report itself raises no immediate questions. But the Minister notes that ECHO is part of the 2015 MAR review that her Department is undertaking. We would like to know when this will be completed, and then to know whether ECHO has retained its "seal of approval".

8.7 So far as the report itself is concerned, we would also like to know when ECHO's own evaluation of Humanitarian Aid is to be published; if this is likely to be in the form of a depositable document; and, if not, when she expects to be able to tell us about how this was carried out, what its findings are recommendations are, and what she thinks of them.

8.8 As expected, ECHO is constantly shaping aspects of its work in response to new realities, e.g., dedicating up to 4% of its €1 billion (£746.9 million) budget to supporting education in emergencies and aiming to provide more multi-purpose cash-based assistance. There are also commitments to implement a new integrated operational approach to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), develop an action plan on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR[27] and develop a new implementation plan for the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid.

8.9 When she submits the next Explanatory Memorandum on "ECHO 2017" in a year's time, we should be grateful if the Minister would include in it her assessment of ECHO's achievements in 2016 in these areas (supporting education in emergencies, multi-purpose cash-based assistance, and implementation of a new integrated operational approach to DRR).

8.10 In the first instance, we should like to know more about the action plan on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR and the proposed new implementation plan for the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid; i.e., when is each likely to be published; if likely to be in the form of a depositable document; and, if not, when she expects to be able to tell us about them, and what she thinks of them.

8.11 In the meantime, we shall retain the document under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Commission Staff Working Document: General Guidelines for Operational Priorities on Humanitarian Aid in 2016: (37348), 14695/15 SWD(15) 267.

Background

8.12 Humanitarian aid provided by the EU is a competence exercisable by both the Member States and the European Union. Between them, the EU and its Member States are the largest humanitarian donors in the world.

8.13 The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO, or DG 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. By bringing together the two under one roof in 2010, the Commission has sought to build up a more robust and effective European mechanism for disaster response both inside and outside the EU. Since 2010, ECHO has operated under the mandate of the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management (currently Christos Stylianides).

8.14 Based on international humanitarian principles[28] and as set out in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, the EU provides needs-based humanitarian assistance with particular attention to the most vulnerable victims. Aid is channelled impartially to the affected populations, regardless of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.

8.15 The EU provides needs-based humanitarian assistance to all major crises zones around the world including Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, as well as countries facing post-conflict instability, such as Côte d'Ivoire. The EU also plays a similar role in assisting and raising awareness of "forgotten crises" — often protracted crises that no longer capture the media and international community's attention. EU humanitarian aid covers areas such as: food and nutrition, shelter, healthcare, water and sanitation, and others. Aid, funded by the EU, is carried out in partnerships with international organisations and humanitarian NGOs.[29]

General Guidelines for Operational Priorities on Humanitarian Aid in 2016

8.16 This Commission Staff Working Document paper deals DG ECHO's humanitarian aid operations for 2016 (it does not cover civil protection or the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative).

8.17 The key policy commitments are in the following areas:

·  Improving Aid Effectiveness including targeted dissemination and further development of existing guidance on thematic and cross-cutting issues, such as gender and age, food and nutrition, and health. There will also be systematic monitoring of operational guidance implementation;

·  Enhancing Protection: new guidance will aim at improving the current practices for an effective integration and mainstreaming of protection of civilians in DG ECHO's work;

·  Supporting education in emergencies: increased support for education in emergencies, dedicating up to 4% of the 2016 humanitarian aid budget;

·  Shelter and Settlement: innovative, needs-based and cost-effective delivery of humanitarian Shelter and Settlement services will be promoted;

·  Urban Settings: DG ECHO will promote a multi-sectoral approach to assessment and programing in urban settings;

·  Multi-purpose cash-based assistance: DG ECHO will increasingly promote use of multi-purpose cash-based approaches in its humanitarian operations;

·  Resilience objectives will continue to be mainstreamed in all humanitarian interventions;

·  Evaluation: five evaluations will be undertaken, including a comprehensive evaluation of Humanitarian Aid in early 2016;

·  Effectiveness through implementing the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, including a new implementation plan in 2016;

·  Effectiveness at the global level: DG ECHO will closely engage with global effectiveness discussions in the context of the World Humanitarian Summit taking place in 2016, for example through High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing. In addition, DG ECHO will continue to support the consolidation of UN-led efforts to improve effectiveness, in particular delivery of the Transformative Agenda;[30]

·  Communication: enhanced funding for communication actions via the DG ECHO Humanitarian Implementation Plans; and

·  Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): DG ECHO will continue to promote resilience and DRR in international fora; implement a new integrated operational approach to DRR and resilience in 2016; and develop an action plan on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR.[31]

8.18 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 15 December 2015, the Minister notes that:

—  following the completion of its third annual integrated Analysis Framework exercise prior to drafting this document, ECHO has identified proposed allocations per country and region. 68 country analyses were conducted by field experts. This is complemented by a global vulnerability and crisis assessment, including the Index for Risk Management (INFORM),[32] the Crisis Assessment and a "Forgotten Crisis" assessment;

—  in line with the humanitarian principle of impartiality, DG ECHO's budget allocation methodology is designed to ensure that resources are allocated on the basis of need; and

—  EU Humanitarian Aid will thus continue to focus funding on supporting those most in need following sudden onset, protracted and forgotten crises.

8.19 The Commission Staff Working Document briefly explains DG ECHO's ways and means of delivering aid, and DG ECHO's coordination and exchange of information procedures, including with Member States through the Council Working Group on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) and the sharing of crisis reports. It also sets out DG ECHO's monitoring mechanisms, including a strict field monitoring regime and review processes. An annex provides a detailed breakdown per budget line.

The Government's view

8.20 The Minister notes that she and her officials work closely with DG ECHO counterparts in Brussels and in many of the countries where the UK has a bilateral aid programme, and also "maintains regular engagement" with the Commission and other Member States through its participation in the EU Council Working Group on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA). The UK "therefore contributes to EU dialogues and decisions and helps to shape Commission priorities and activities on an ongoing basis".

8.21 She continues her comments thus:

"The UK has strong involvement in many of the policy areas outlined in this Staff Working Document, such as on multi-purpose cash-based assistance, education in emergencies, protection of civilians, and resilience. The UK is also closely engaged in discussions on the effectiveness of improving the international humanitarian system. Gender and Violence again Women and Girls are not directly mentioned in the document. However, gender is mentioned in the Humanitarian Implementation Plans which complement the document. The UK is supportive of the European Commission's engagement in these priority areas.

"As the world's second largest humanitarian donor with a strong field expert network, DG ECHO's humanitarian programming has a major impact on global humanitarian outcomes. The department will continue to work with DG ECHO and other Member States to ensure greater complementarity of approaches. It will also work to promote closer working between DG ECHO and the European Commission's Directorate General for Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO), to maximise the impact of the European Commission's overall efforts to help prevent crises occurring in the first place, and to support development of more strategic approaches in protracted, conflict related crises.

"The work of DG ECHO was included in DFID's 2011 Multilateral Aid Review (MAR), which concluded that DG ECHO provides very good value for money. DFID are in the process of reviewing this as part of the 2015 MAR.

"The Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR), a UK government review exercise run parallel to the MAR in 2011, recognised the significant role that the EU and DG ECHO play in the provision of humanitarian aid and stressed that the UK needs to be more closely engaged on both policy and delivery. This has been maintained through DFID's participation in Council working party meetings, bilateral engagement with other Member States on priority policy and operational areas, and engagement directly with DG ECHO in Brussels and in countries where the UK has a bilateral aid programme."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (36609), 16902/14: Thirty-seventh Report HC 219-xxxvi (2014-15), chapter 26 (18 March 2015) and Thirty-third Report HC 219-xxxii (2014-15), chapter 1 (11 February 2015).


25   The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid was jointly agreed by the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission in 2008, with the aim of confirming their collective commitment to the principles underpinning EU humanitarian aid, to enhance existing commitments for good donor practice across the EU, in partnership with other humanitarian stakeholders, and to put in place the foundations for working more closely together to ensure the most effective implementation of EU humanitarian aid in the years to come; see EUROPEAN CONSENSUS ON HUMANITARIAN AID for full information. Back

26   The Network on Humanitarian Action is an international association of 17 universities (of which 12 are European) that aims to enhance professionalism in the humanitarian sector through education and training, research and publications, and projects. Back

27   The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. It aims to achieve the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries over the next 15 years. Back

28   The principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence are grounded in International Humanitarian Law. All Member States have committed themselves to them by ratifying the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Humanity means that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable; Neutrality means that humanitarian aid must not favour any side in an armed conflict or other dispute; Impartiality means that humanitarian aid must be provided solely on the basis of need, without discrimination; and Independence means the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from political, economic, military or other objectives; see Humanitarian principles for full information. Back

29   See About the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) for full information about ECHO. Back

30   The Inter-Agency Standing Committee brings together UN and non-UN partners to coordinate humanitarian assistance. In 2011, the IASC adopted the Transformative Agenda, a series of concrete actions that aim to visibly transform the way the humanitarian community responds to a crisis through a series of protocols setting parameters for improved collective action. Back

31   The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. It aims to achieve the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries over the next 15 years. Back

32   INFORM is a global, open-source risk assessment for humanitarian crises and disasters. It is a collaboration of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team for Preparedness and Resilience and the European Commission. INFORM is co-initiated and co-funded by DFID. Back


 
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Prepared 22 January 2016