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Texts adopted
Tuesday, 5 September 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition
Community humanitarian activities
A5-0191/2000

European Parliament resolution on the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Assessment and future of Community humanitarian activities (Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1257/96) (COM(1999) 468 - C5-0044/2000 - 2000/2016(COS) )

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the communication from the Commission (COM(1999) 468 - C5-0044/2000 ),

-  having regard to the evaluation report on Community humanitarian aid operations provided for by Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1257/96,

-  having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and Cooperation and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy (A5-0191/2000 ),

A.  whereas the assistance and aid required by peoples in distress and victims of natural disasters or conflicts or other similar events represents an essential part of the European Union's identity as perceived from outside,

B.  whereas the profile of the European Union has shifted from that of "donor" to "responsive organisation" looking for a more direct involvement in disaster response,

C.  whereas in the 1990s serious crises - both natural and man-made disasters - have multiplied, and catastrophes have in particular affected the most vulnerable sections of the population, especially women, elderly people and the very young,

D.  whereas the European Union has increased its humanitarian aid significantly, and is currently the largest donor worldwide and the main provider of funds for United Nations organisations; whereas there is, however, a considerable imbalance in the distribution of resources to the disadvantage of countries outside Europe, particularly developing countries,

E.  whereas the European Union's humanitarian office (ECHO) is the only department in the Commission that is actually able to react flexibly to emergency needs,

F.  whereas, according to the summary and conclusions of the evaluation report drawn up pursuant to Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1257/96, ECHO's interventions have been relevant and useful; whereas ECHO can be proud of achievements which are quite satisfactory in the view of other bodies operating in the humanitarian and rehabilitation fields,

G.  whereas, in the absence of sufficiently flexible alternative instruments within the Commission, in recent years ECHO has become more and more involved in post-emergency ("grey zone') interventions of a longer duration; whereas, without a restructuring and clarification of the duties of the departments involved, this type of intervention is likely to prove increasingly unsustainable for the Office,

H.  whereas, more generally, the powers and responsibilities of Commission departments for external affairs (including development and humanitarian aid) must be clarified as a matter of urgency, and there must be increased coordination between departments,

I.  whereas more consistency and coordination is required in ECHO's management and an adequate system for monitoring the quality of results is needed, specifically one that makes use of performance indicators,

J.  whereas ECHO has proportionately smaller staff numbers than other Commission departments and Member States, inadequate for the scale of the tasks it has to accomplish,

K.  whereas disaster preparedness and conflict prevention, indispensable elements of humanitarian policy, should play a more prominent role in ECHO's operations,

L.  whereas the humanitarian aid provided by ECHO is almost unknown among the general public in Europe and is not associated with the European Union by beneficiaries, particularly when used to fund programmes implemented via United Nations agencies,

1.  Calls on the Commission to overcome confusion and uncertainty by unambiguously opting for a strategy for the future of stepping up the humanitarian aid policy entrusted to ECHO;

2.  Asks the Commission to submit to Parliament and the Council a clear strategy on the role that the humanitarian aid supplied by ECHO should play within external and development policies; stresses that this strategy should specifically include a general but not inflexible definition of ECHO's tasks and its framework of activities, as well as those of the Commission's development and external affairs departments, in order to ensure consistency, complementarity and coordination in the field of foreign policy and its implementation and to avoid duplication of effort and parallel structures;

3.  Requests in particular an increase in the administrative and financial capacities necessary for carrying out reorganisation and rehabilitation tasks in post-emergency situations, and immediate clarification of ECHO's responsibilities, bearing in mind the need both for flexible rapid reaction instruments and also long-term planning;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to create a system for overall coordination of all the donors involved in humanitarian aid at an international level;

5.  Asks the Commission and the Council to give ECHO the function of a coordinating platform for all the Member States" emergency aid services at times of major natural disasters or other serious crises; similarly, asks the Commission and the Member States to endeavour to make their humanitarian aid more complementary;

6.  Considers that disaster preparedness is a horizontal element which must be integrated into all European development and technical cooperation programmes; takes the view in this context that the Commission should give increased priority to encouraging capacity building in vulnerable countries;

7.  Notes that the funds available for conflict prevention and disaster preparedness (DIPECHO) are inadequate to achieve their aim;

8.  Asks the Commission and the Council to review the distribution of humanitarian aid funds in order to achieve a better balance in favour of developing countries;

9.  Asks the Commission, with regard to the management of ECHO, to take the following specific steps:

   -
increase internal coordination and coordination with the other Commission departments involved in crisis situations,
   -
set clear and measurable objectives for all operations,
   -
make systematic use of performance indicators in programming, planning and managing projects, and also in internal administration,
   -
set up a systematic procedure for monitoring the quality of results,
   -
carry out a restructuring of personnel using more flexible, ad hoc recruitment rules, enabling experienced staff to be taken on and more responsibility to be given to staff not covered by the staff regulations,
   -
introduce a training programme in humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation, making use of the lessons learnt to improve staff skills and enhance institutional expertise,
   -
decentralise responsibility towards staff located in the field and ensure that delegations are strengthened in countries facing major humanitarian crises, so as to provide administrative support and closer monitoring of operations while ensuring an adequate level of representation on the part of the Commission;

calls on the Commission, in this context, to take account of gender-related factors, particularly in relation to the use of performance indicators, the assessment of project results and the knowledge required at recruitment and in professional training;

10.  Considers that preference should be given to the NGO system and the associations of civil society which promote human rights and efforts towards a lasting peace when partners are chosen to carry out humanitarian intervention tasks, since these organisations have proved to be efficient and effective;

11.  Considers that, with regard to cooperation with partners, ECHO must maintain a flexible approach, taking into account the relevant capacities of the organisations involved and avoiding encouraging cooperation with a limited number of major partners; supports the incorporation of international humanitarian law and human rights into the design and implementation of humanitarian aid, placing particular emphasis on the fundamental rights of women and children; stresses, however, that incorporating this dimension by no means amounts to introducing any conditionality on humanitarian aid; asks the Commission to coordinate the activities of the humanitarian aid and human rights departments and to promote cooperation with NGOs in this field;

12.  Urges the Commission to take the appropriate steps to put a stop to the increased politicisation of humanitarian assistance and the way this is taking the place of European Union foreign policy, because humanitarian assistance should essentially address the effects of crisis, be they the result of a natural disaster or a conflict, and not its causes;

13.  Considers it necessary to carry out research on the interdependence between mankind's interference in the ecological system, military and civil conflicts, economic and social inequity on the one hand and the frequency, intensity and regional distribution of natural disasters, civil wars and military conflicts on the other hand;

14.  Requests a strengthening of ECHO's strategy for communicating with the outside; suggests that the Commission carry out an information campaign to ensure that the humanitarian aid supplied by ECHO is recognised by the general public as one of the European Union's strengths; urges that this campaign should be given a special budget for this purpose;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to back the efforts made to ensure that the European Union's presence and influence in international organisations are more representative of its political strength and the extent of its contribution to humanitarian aid;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and Council.

Last updated: 19 May 2004Legal notice