2004 ECHO annual review
This report outlines the main activities of the European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid -DG ECHO- in 2004. ECHO remained committed to a policy of adherence to the fundamental principles of humanitarian assistance, namely neutrality, impartiality and independence, as the only way to effectively deliver aid, maintain access to the populations in need and safeguard the security of humanitarian workers.
Commission Report of 23 November 2005 - 2004 Annual Review - (ECHO) [COM(2005) 580 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
2004 will be remembered as the year of the terrible tsunami on 26 December, which killed up to 280 000 people on the shores of the Indian Ocean, making it one of the worst disasters ever recorded. However, thousands more died in other crises in other parts of the world, often without the public being aware of the disastrous consequences on the affected populations. ECHO's response to humanitarian emergencies evolved in line with the changes in global humanitarian needs in 2004, with a particular focus on the "forgotten crises", which were not, or no longer, in the media spotlight.
To make sure that operations matched needs, ECHO compared the situations of some 130 developing countries on the basis of nine humanitarian indicators: human development, poverty, natural disaster risk, conflicts, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), malnutrition, mortality and other donors' contributions. Applying this methodology to the 2004 results revealed that 62% (EUR 353 million) of the EUR 570 million (EUR 518.2 million was financed from the Commission's budget and EUR 52.2 million from the European Development Fund) was allocated to the regions with the greatest needs, 30% (EUR 172 million) to those with medium needs and less than 1.0% (EUR 4 million) to low-need areas ("pockets of need"). ACP countries were the biggest recipients of aid (EUR 301.6 million), followed by Asia (EUR 111.1 million). The remaining amount (EUR 41 million, 7%) was spent on thematic funding, technical assistance and support expenditure.
ECHO's methodology for identifying forgotten crises was based on both quantitative data (lack of media coverage or low donor support combined with high needs) and qualitative factors (field assessment by ECHO experts and desk officers). In 2004 the main forgotten crises were identified as being in Algeria (Western Sahara), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Haiti, India, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Northern Caucasus (Chechnya), Thailand (Burmese refugees), Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen.
In 2004, despite hopeful signs, the difficulties confronting humanitarian assistance continued: the number of refugees decreased from 10.6 million in 2002 to 9.67 million at the end of 2003, however, when refugees become returnees they still need humanitarian assistance, at least in the initial phase following their return. Furthermore, there were 25 million internally displaced persons. The humanitarian crisis unleashed in Asia by the tsunami illustrated people's increasing vulnerability to natural disasters.
Main DG ECHO operations in 2004
In Africa, the most extensive operations took place in Sudan/Darfur, which the UN called the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world". The civil war that began in 2003 escalated drastically in 2004. In addition to the EUR 20 million initially budgeted for Sudan, a series of decisions were taken granting a total of EUR 83 million in aid.
Funding was also given to projects in Central Africa and the Great Lakes region (Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo (Brazzaville), Central African Republic and Tanzania) and the West African sub-region.
In the Northern Caucasus, the protracted and forgotten humanitarian crisis in Chechnya remained one of the operational priorities of ECHO in 2004, which allocated EUR 28.5 million to the victims of this conflict.
A total of EUR 37.35 million was spent on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian refugees in Jordan, the Lebanon and Syria and refugees from Iraq housed in camps in Jordan and in no man's land between Jordan and Iraq.
EUR 35 million in aid was made available to Afghanistan, mainly to support refugees' and internally displaced people's return to and reintegration into their areas of origin.
ECHO was the first donor to respond to the tsunami, allocating EUR 3 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross. In January 2005 the European Commission asked the budgetary authority (Parliament and Council) to accord up to EUR 100 million in additional emergency aid for the stricken zone. EUR 80 million was allocated to the victims.
In 2004 16 financing decisions were taken to provide assistance in disaster preparedness activities across several regions of the world. ECHO also spent EUR 360 000 in support of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction at Kobe.
Thematic funding is a new way of working with international organisations (United Nations' agencies and the Red Cross movement) to reinforce their institutional capacity as a means of improving the delivery of humanitarian aid. In 2004 ECHO concluded thematic contracts with the OCHA, WHO, WFP and Unicef.
ECHO participated in a number of meetings to discuss with other donors issues such as the erosion of the humanitarian space, humanitarian principles - in particular the risk of their not being respected in the case of UN integrated missions - or the problem of access to certain countries for humanitarian workers.
Meetings on strategic programming were held in the course of the year with major partners (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitatrian Affairs - OCHA-, Unicef, World Health Organisation - WHO-, World Food Programme -WFP). At Community level, ECHO was active in ensuring commitment the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence and attended a number of meetings at various levels in the Council and with other Commission departments.
As far as cost-cutting issues were concerned, progress was made in pilot cases on the links between relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD). A total of EUR 46 million (EUR 26 million in 2003) was spent on child-related activities and some 66 of the 102 financing decisions focused on this area. Water was one of the priorities of ECHO's annual work programme and an invitation to tender was published for a study on water and sanitation issues in humanitarian emergencies.
ECHO organised training sessions and a range of activities to communicate the values, principles and practical achievements of the European Union's humanitarian assistance policy. ECHO also conducted 145 audits at the headquarters of humanitarian organisations to ensure regular monitoring of financial information and adequate management information.