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Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO)
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) is responsible for the provision of aid to the victims of crises and natural or man-made disasters, including in countries outside the European Union (EU).
Since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has had an exceptional shared competence in the area of humanitarian action, i.e. it has the power to conduct operations and a European policy in addition to those of the Member States. The Commission ensures the smooth coordination of action at European and national level.
Humanitarian aid is specifically intended for developing countries. It is implemented via the instrument for humanitarian aid which finances emergency operations, in particular with the aim to:
- provide assistance, relief and protection for the local population;
- provide food aid and assistance to displaced persons;
- support disaster preparedness and crisis rehabilitation actions.
These operations are conducted depending on the needs and interests of the victims, in accordance with international law and the principles of impartiality, neutrality and non-discrimination laid down by the European Consensus on humanitarian aid.
ECHO intervenes in partnership with organisations that have signed a framework partnership agreement with the Commission, such as the specialised agencies of the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and numerous non-governmental organisations.
ECHO also intervenes in the event of natural or man-made disasters (earthquakes, floods, industrial accidents, etc.) occurring in the EU. Its action is implemented via the Civil Protection Financial Instrument in response to requests for assistance from the countries affected.
The EU’s action involves encouraging cooperation between national civil protection services, principally with the aim of:
- supplementing and supporting Member States’ prevention, preparedness and response activities;
- faciliting rapid operational cooperation between Member States.
The EU can also conduct civil protection operations in non-Member States, more specifically with the accession candidate countries and the Mediterranean partner countries.
The EU is one of the world’s biggest providers of humanitarian aid funding. Since 1992, operations directed by ECHO have channelled aid to regions in crisis in more than 85 countries.