Documents considered by the Committee on 1 March 2017 Contents

13EU humanitarian assistance

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny

Document details

Commission Staff Working Document — General Guidelines on Operational Priorities for Humanitarian Aid in 2017

Legal base

Department

International Development

Document Number

(38358), 15299/16, SWD(16) 432

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

13.1The EU is the world’s third largest donor of humanitarian aid. Each year, the European Commission publishes “General Guidelines” which establish the priorities for the EU’s humanitarian aid operations and set out an indicative budget allocation for the year ahead.

13.2The Guidelines for 2017 were published on 5 December 2016. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 31 January, the Minister of State at the Department for International Development (Lord Bates) welcomed the publication of the Guidelines, which he said provided a “sound rationale” for the EU’s operational priorities in delivering humanitarian assistance. Overall, the Commission’s priorities reflected those of the Government (see “Background” for more information).

13.3As requested by the Committee,84 the Minister also summarised his Department’s assessment of the European Commission as part of the 2016 Multilateral Development Review.85 Broadly speaking, it recognised that the Commission’s Humanitarian Assistance division (DG ECHO) had “good” organisational strength and that its objectives were a “very good” match for the UK’s priorities. He also commended the Commission for further improving its capacity to deliver multi-purpose cash-based assistance, and increasing funding for education for children in countries affected by instability.

13.4Overall we do not consider that the Commission guidelines on operational priorities for humanitarian aid in 2017 raise any substantive issues, and we are content to clear the document from scrutiny. We note that the Commission’s priorities for 2017 reflect those of the UK Government.

13.5We were also pleased to receive the requested update on the Department’s own review of the DG ECHO’s delivery of humanitarian aid in preceding years. We note that the EU’s alignment with the UK’s development objectives was rated as “very good”. This is likely to be in part, of course, because the UK as a Member State directly feeds into the EU’s policy development in this area. The level of alignment could change once the UK ceases to be a Member State.

13.6With respect to the UK’s exit from the EU more broadly, we do not consider that this document raises any immediate issues as it sets operational priorities for 2017 only. However, there are broader questions to be answered about the Government’s objectives for its post-Brexit partnership with the EU in the delivery of humanitarian aid. We have asked the Government to provide more information on the implications of Brexit for UK development and humanitarian aid policy elsewhere.86

Full details of the documents

Commission Staff Working Document—General Guidelines on Operational Priorities for Humanitarian Aid in 2017: (38358), 15299/16, SWD(16) 432.

Background

13.7Each year, the European Commission publishes “General Guidelines” which establish the EU’s humanitarian aid operations, set out an indicative budget allocation for the year ahead and frame the Commission’s humanitarian policy focus. Following publication of the 2016 guidelines, we asked the previous Minister (Baroness Varma) to include in the next Explanatory Memorandum her assessment of the Commission’s achievements in 2016 in new areas of activity, as well as the Department’s assessment of the EU’s performance as part of its Multilateral Development Review.87

13.8The Guidelines for 2017 were published as a Commission Staff Working Document on 5 December 2016. It identifies a number of policy priorities, including:

13.9The Commission has also provided an initial indication of which regions will the primary focus of EU humanitarian efforts. Based on a number of risk assessments, and with the support of the Member States, the Commission will allocate the majority of its €810 million (£691 million) humanitarian aid budget for 2017 to West and Central Africa (£135 million), the Horn of Africa & Southern Africa, including Sudan (£147 million) and the Middle East (£220 million).

13.10The Government has not taken issue with the contents of the Guidelines. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 31 January, the Minister of State at the Department for International Development (Lord Bates) concluded:

“This […] document sets out a sound rationale for the Commission’s policy and operational priorities for 2017 which broadly align with the UK priorities for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

13.11The Minister also explained that DfID’s 2016 Multilateral Development Review recognised that the European Commission plays a “critical role” in the international humanitarian system. The Review found DG ECHO to have ‘good’ organisational strength, and to be a ‘very good’ match with UK development objectives. It also commended the benefits of DG ECHO’s scale, which enables it to maintain field presence in more than 40 countries, as well as its high-level technical capacity.

13.12With respect to the European Commission’s performance in delivering humanitarian aid in 2016, the Minister is also largely positive. He notes that the Commission has further improved its capacity to deliver multi-purpose cash-based assistance by updating its funding agreement formats, including measurements of how much cash is delivered, its value for money and the results it delivers. The Commission has also increased its funding for primary and secondary education for children living in countries affected by emergencies and crises.

Our assessment

13.13Overall we do not consider that the Commission guidelines for 2017 raise any substantive issues. We note that the Commission is currently preparing a number of reviews related to its humanitarian aid work, including the EU’s support for crisis-affected countries in southern Africa, as well as a comprehensive evaluation of its humanitarian aid actions between 2011 and 2016. We ask the Minister to keep us informed of the outcome of these reviews, and the Government’s views on them.

13.14We were pleased to receive the requested update on the Department’s review of the European Commission’s delivery of humanitarian aid. We note that the Commission’s alignment with the UK’s development objectives was rated as “very good”.

The Government’s views

13.15In his Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister of State (Lord Bates) calls the general guidelines a “sound rationale” for the Commission’s humanitarian aid policy in 2017, and says of the operational priorities:

“[They] broadly align with the UK’s priorities for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. Notably, the document reflects the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit, including efforts to bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to the humanitarian system.”

13.16He supported the Commission in its allocation methodology for humanitarian assistance, but noted that coordination with other donors would benefit from earlier consultation in advance of the publication of the annual guidelines. In respect of some of the Commission’s new mechanisms for distribution of humanitarian aid, the Minister notes that “the UK has pushed, alongside other Member States, for a greater emphasis on use of cash transfers and on education in emergencies, and we are pleased to see this reflected”. Both methods of delivering humanitarian assistance have been given greater prominence in recent years.

13.17With respect to the Government’s assessment of the European Commission as part of its 2016 Multilateral Development Review (MDR), the Minister writes:

“Based on a standardised scoring system […] the UK’s 2016 Multilateral Development Review (MDR) found ECHO to have ‘good’ organisational strength, and to be a ‘very good’ match with UK development objectives. As the world’s third largest humanitarian donor, the MDR commends ECHO’s scale, which enables it to maintain field presence in more than 40 countries, as well as its high-level technical capacity. The MDR finds that that ECHO has a rigorous approach to allocating funding based on humanitarian need and that policies are in place to deliver UK and international humanitarian objectives.”

13.18The Minister does not provide any information on the impact of Brexit on the Government’s approach to the delivery of humanitarian aid, or the Government’s desired partnership with the EU in this area following Brexit.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see also: (37348), 14695/15: Twenty-sixth Report HC 342-xxv (2015–16), chapter 7 (16 March 2016) and Eighteenth Report HC 342-xvii (2015–16), chapter 8 (13 January 2016), and (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).


84 See our report on the 2016 Guidelines: (37348), 14695/15: Twenty-sixth Report HC 342-xxv (2015–16), chapter 7 (16 March 2016).

85 Department for International Development, “The Multilateral Development Review 2016“ (1 December 2016).

86 See our Report of 25 January 2017: (38306), 14773/16: Twenty-Eighth Report HC 71-xxvi (2016–17) chapter 2 (25 January 2017).

87 See our report on the 2016 Guidelines: (37348), 14695/15: Twenty-sixth Report HC 342-xxv (2015–16), chapter 7 (16 March 2016).




3 March 2017