ECHO Operational Strategy 2011

Brussels, 16.11.2010

SEC(2010) 1428 final

Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection



The Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO) is responsible for formulating EU humanitarian aid policy and for funding humanitarian aid - including food aid - to victims of conflicts or disasters, both natural and man-made, in non EU countries. Its mandate is to save and preserve life, to reduce or prevent suffering and to safeguard the integrity and dignity of those affected by humanitarian crises. DG ECHO also helps to facilitate coordination with and among EU Member States on humanitarian assistance and civil protection efforts at EU level.

The importance of humanitarian aid policy has been reflected in the appointment of a Commissioner dedicated to humanitarian aid and crisis response in the new Commission. Civil protection activities were transferred to DG ECHO in the new College's portfolio assignments. The Civil Protection Instrument covers interventions in Member States, as well as in non-EU countries.

Humanitarian aid and civil protection are linked, and are now the responsibility of the same Commission department and Commissioner. However, the annual strategy drawn up under article 16.1 of the Council Regulation No 1257/96 covers only humanitarian aid operations.

Civil protection activities are described in the annual work programme for actions to be financed in 2011 pursuant to Council Decision No 2007/162/EC.


The 2011 operational strategy is presented in a global humanitarian context that is increasingly marked by serious natural disasters and diminishing humanitarian space in many crisis and conflict zones. Government and non-state actors often disregard even the most basic protection afforded by International Humanitarian Law. Meanwhile, the major natural disasters that occurred in 2010, the earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan, hit some of the most vulnerable people in the world who are generally not well prepared to cope with the impact. This bleak picture is compounded by fragility in many developing countries. This is a result of post-conflict transitional situations, poor governance or collapse of the State's institutions. It generates humanitarian needs among those who are most vulnerable, whose coping mechanisms have been exhausted.

A combination of factors have resulted in increasing humanitarian needs, a larger number of refugees and displaced persons, the growing impact of climate change which has generated more demand for humanitarian aid, and the impact of the economic crisis on those most vulnerable. At the end of 2009, the UNHCR estimated that 43 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and persecution, the highest figure since the mid-1990s.

This included 15 million refugees, 27 million internally displaced people, and close to 1 million asylum-seekers (pending cases). At the same time, fewer and fewer displaced persons are able (or in many cases willing) to return home, making solutions for their resettlement increasingly important. Based on UNHCR reports, the numbers of those repatriated has continuously decreased since the early 2000s, while resettlement now accounts for an estimated 31%, compared to 2% in 2002.

In 2010, there was a sharp rise in the numbers of those displaced due to natural disasters. In 2009, there were 335 small or medium scale natural disasters, affecting 120 million people, below the annual average for the period 2000-2008. Then in 2010, there were two 'mega disasters'. First, in January, there was the earthquake in Haiti, then in August, floods in Pakistan. Together, these disasters affected more than 20 million people. According to CRED , by July 2010, 108 million people had already been affected by natural disasters, and the flooding in Pakistan pushed the number beyond 200 million.

The coincidence pointed up the urgent need to boost efforts to mitigate the impact of disasters, but it is equally important to strengthen the capacity to respond to disasters. The Commission is making this one of the strategic initiatives of 2010, to be mapped out in a Communication on the EU's Disaster Response Capacity due to be adopted in autumn 2010.

The main aim will be to improve effectiveness, coherence and visibility by building on the main components of the EU's response to disasters, i.e. humanitarian aid and civil protection, as well as military support where needed and appropriate. Lessons learnt from Haiti and Pakistan, as well as from natural disasters within Europe during 2010 (storm Xynthia, floods in Eastern Europe, forest fires in Southern Europe) will shape proposals for the way ahead.

The changes in the global environment for humanitarian aid will also be reflected in three initiatives of strategic importance for DG ECHO in 2011:

- revision of the civil protection legislation, which aims to integrate key elements from the upcoming Communication on Disaster Response Capacity,

- preparatory work on the creation of a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps (EVHAC) as requested by the Lisbon Treaty,

- revision of the Council Regulation on humanitarian aid to bring it in line with policy and institutional developments, and which has to be put in the context of the forthcoming revision of all instruments for external action.

Another major challenge for 2011 and the coming years is to bridge the widening gap between growing humanitarian needs and the limited funding available. In 2010, the budget had to be reinforced to the limit to provide assistance to victims of ongoing and new crises, especially in view of the need to provide an adequate response at EU level to the megadisasters in Haiti and Pakistan.

Funding dedicated to humanitarian aid reached almost €1.1 billion in 2010 as a result. Since the response to the two mega-crises will have a spill-over effect into 2011, it is most likely that DG ECHO's initial budget of €848 million will need to be reinforced early in the year.

Several million people already depend on the EU for the most basic humanitarian aid, often for survival. The EU (European Commission and Member States) is already the biggest humanitarian aid donor, currently providing 45% of official global humanitarian assistance.

It will need to maintain this level of commitment to helping those most vulnerable. Without it, the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources to meet them will continue to widen. Beyond 2011, there needs to be an adequate baseline budget for EU humanitarian aid, with funding set at a level at least matching spending in 2010, with the flexibility to mobilise additional resources if need be. The upcoming discussions on the new Multi-annual Financial Framework (2014-2024+) will be decisive in securing the resources necessary for the EU to continue to make an adequate contribution to global humanitarian aid.