Brussels, 6 June 2001
The European Commission has adopted a new decision-making procedure covering 'primary emergency aid' which will enable it to respond immediately in future to emergency humanitarian situations, making it not only one of the biggest donors in the world, but also one of the fastest. The decision will allow the Commission to make a significant contribution to saving lives all over the world whenever disaster strikes and people are in great danger. According to Commissioner Poul Nielson, the new procedure responds to the urgent requirements of the beneficiaries of humanitarian aid and is in keeping with the ongoing process of reform in the Commission. "I am convinced that it will lend practical and effective weight to our solidarity measures in favour of those in distress" says Commissioner Nielson. In practice, it will enable the Commission to adopt financing decisions and mobilise the requisite relief agency funding within 24 to 48 hours compared to 5 days previously and so help the arrival and deployment of emergency relief.
Though quick to react to crises, until now the Commission has had no real immediate response capability to cope with new emergency situations when fresh outbreaks of fighting or natural disasters occur. It would take five days at the earliest for aid to be mobilised. Under the new system of primary emergency aid, which comes into effect on 13 June, decisions can be adopted within 24 to 48 hours of a disaster being declared. These decisions cover immediate initial financing of up to 3 million per crisis, for a maximum of three months, to be granted to recognised professional relief agencies(1) capable of immediate intervention in the field. Because of its flexibility and adaptability, primary emergency aid will help respond to all immediate humanitarian requirements.
The Commission has also carried out a review of the decision-making procedures for other types of humanitarian aid to help make them more effective and consistent with the creation of an immediate response capability. It now possesses a full range of instruments for responding to all types of humanitarian situations throughout the world: primary emergency aid for an immediate response to new crises such as last year's earthquakes in El Salvador and India; emergency measures for existing, but volatile crises, e.g. the situation in Chechnya; humanitarian assistance measures for long-lasting, slowly developing crises, particularly ongoing war situations, such as in Angola, Somalia or Afghanistan.
Relief aid from the Commission is managed by its humanitarian aid office, ECHO. In 2000, the Commission provided a total of €485 million in financing for relief operations in 85 countries throughout the world.
(1) UN relief agencies, NGOs and organisations belonging to the Red Cross family.