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Disaster and crisis response in Non-EU Member Countries

The measures set out in this Communication share the common objective of promoting efficiency, coherence and coordination between the various external policy instruments of the European Union (EU) in situations of disaster and crisis, while preserving their distinct mandates.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Reinforcing EU Disaster and Crisis Response in third countries [COM(2005) 153 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Ensuring a coherent and rational response

In addition to the existing external relations instruments, many internal policy instruments can be mobilised to strengthen the Community's overall response to disasters. These encompass instruments from fields such as research, the information society, justice, freedom and security and fisheries.

Diversity of capabilities is one of the strengths of the EU and is essential to meet the dual challenge of ensuring a rational, rapid and flexible response in the face of emergencies and of mobilising and developing these resources in a coherent manner.

Strengthening the response capabilities of the EU

The European Union (EU) is able to respond immediately to disasters owing to:

EU military capabilities, and logistical capabilities in particular, complement delivery of aid under these two mechanisms. It is necessary, however, to ensure that military capabilities used for humanitarian missions retain their civilian and impartial nature. The Commission considers that it is essential to preserve the neutrality of the 'humanitarian space' and therefore attaches great importance to compliance with the UN Guidelines on the use of military and civil defence assets in humanitarian operations in both conflict and non-conflict situations.

The lead role of OCHA in disaster coordination is recognised by the EU. Humanitarian aid from the Community is channelled primarily through the specialised agencies of the United Nations, the Red Cross and European NGOs.

The partnerships concluded by ECHO with the above organisations and the setting-up of rapid funding procedures mean that the Community is a front-line donor in sudden disasters. In order to improve preparedness, the Commission is to fund the pre-positioning of vital immediate relief items.

To evaluate needs reliably and rapidly, it is important to be able to depend on a network of humanitarian aid experts. The Commission is to increase the number of experts from 69 to 150. They will receive training in the assessment methodologies of the other institutional actors (United Nations, Red Cross) and will be possible to deploy specialised multi-sectoral teams within 24 hours of a disaster.

In order to improve coherence of the overall EU humanitarian response, it is essential, in the Commission's view, to set up a standardised information flow. It therefore proposes:
- to develop a network of Member States' humanitarian emergency focal points;
- to improve the existing system for EU humanitarian reporting (the so-called '14 point' system), making it fully consistent with the financial tracking system of UNOCHA;
- to put its field-based humanitarian aid experts at the disposal of Member States to advise in the provision of bilateral humanitarian assistance.

The Community Civil Protection Mechanism may be used outside the EU, either on an autonomous basis or as a contribution to an intervention led by an international organisation; coordination of these activities will be ensured by the Commission and the EU Presidency.

The Commission proposes to adopt several immediate measures which will contribute to improving the Mechanism and maximising the impact of its assistance within the existing legal framework. In the longer term more ambitious structural reforms of the Mechanism can be envisaged, underpinned by additional financial resources and aimed at a more robust civil protection capability.

Good-quality assessment of needs at an early stage is essential at all intervention stages. In order to strengthen the efficiency of Community reconstruction aid, the Commission will establish assessment and planning teams bringing together desk officers and sectoral specialists from across the Commission and its 130 Delegations.

The teams should be ready for mobilisation at short notice for missions of up to one month and should be able to draw upon external experts. To establish these teams:

  • a roster of in-house expertise will be established;
  • a common training course will be developed;
  • measures will be taken to ensure that staff can be detached from their functions and mobilised rapidly.

The Commission considers that the Civil-Military Planning Cell of the European Union Military Staff within the Council Secretariat has a crucial role to play in developing the EU's crisis response. Given the breadth of experience it has in managing relief and post-conflict stabilisation measures, the Commission has appointed two representatives to the Civil-Military Cell in order to promote coherence between the planning assumptions of the EC and the CFSP measures.

The need for longer-term structural measures

The Commission has announced the creation of a light structure to improve real-time policy coordination within its departments when facing crisis situations outside the Union. This would both increase the flow of information to decision-makers and strengthen coordination with the General Secretariat of the Council.

The Commission will continue to work on setting up a common logistical and administrative support platform for external actions, which will ensure provision of timely mission administration, logistics and procurement. It will also put in place a number of interim measures to accelerate the procurement for CFSP missions.

The creation of a stability instrument seeks to streamline the Community's response by creating a single integrated financial instrument.

Preventive measures, early warning system and disaster preparedness

Rapid response capacities need to be accompanied by an enhanced strategy for disaster prevention, preparedness and early warning. To that end the Community is considering the establishment of an ACP-EC natural disaster facility (see Annex II).

Taking the results of the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reductions (Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action 2005-2015 ) as a starting point, the Commission will focus on:

  • integrating disaster risk reduction into sustainable development policies and into programmes in countries that have been affected by disaster;
  • strengthening capacities to become resilient to natural disasters;
  • developing a people-centred early warning system;
  • identifying, assessing and monitoring disaster risks;
  • reducing the underlying risk factors.

The Commission will encourage regional and sub-regional organisations to play a part in the implementation of early warning and alert systems by adopting a multi-hazard approach. The EC will focus on humanitarian aid and development assistance directed at local preparedness and national action, emergency communication and mitigation plans, including capacity building at national and regional level for disaster reduction. Specific tools will be developed in cooperation with the Commission's Joint Research Centre and OCHA, such as the Global Disaster Alert System (GDAS).

To enhance the effectiveness of early warning, the information systems, databases, satellites and ground measurement networks available to the international community must be significantly improved. To that end, the Commission will develop its programmes in the following fora:

  • the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction;
  • the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which will implement the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) (PDF ).

Protection and support to EU citizens

To provide assistance to European citizens affected by a major crisis, the Commission supports the work of the Consular Affairs Group on the strengthening of consular cooperation and of the Police Cooperation Working Group on the setting-up of a coordinated EU mechanism for identifying disaster victims.

This Communication includes two annexes. The first is a report on the measures taken by the Commission in response to the tsunami disaster. The second illustrates the range of Community instruments and programmes which contribute to early warning and disaster preparedness across the world.

Background

This Communication is the Commission's response to the Community Action Plan presented by the Luxembourg Presidency at the "General Affairs and External Relations Council" (GAERC) of 31 January 2005, following the flooding around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004. In the Communication, the President of the Commission submitted a plan on the long-term development of the EU's capability to anticipate and react to future disasters and crisis situations.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 05.10.2007
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