European Office for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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The Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission ( ECHO ) - formerly the Office of the European Community Humanitarian Office - is the department of the European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection abroad.

In 2013, the EU provided EUR 1.35 billion in emergency aid through ECHO . Since 2000, the EU has made the second largest contribution to humanitarian aid worldwide every year (figures available up to 2012). Together with its member states, it is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world and in 2009 provided over 50% of all humanitarian aid. The projects funded by ECHO benefit over 120 million people in 90 countries every year.

ECHO does not implement aid programs itself within the framework of humanitarian interventions, but finances the operations through a network of over 200 partners ( non-governmental organizations , UN organizations and international organizations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement ). In 2013, ECHO had 44 offices in 39 countries, employing 149 international humanitarian experts and 315 national staff. The offices provide up-to-date analysis of current and anticipated needs in a given country or region, help build intervention strategies and policies, provide technical assistance and ensure adequate monitoring of these operations. They also enable coordination with other donors on site.

In addition to providing humanitarian aid, ECHO is also responsible for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Established in 2001, the mechanism promotes cooperation between national civil protection authorities across Europe. Currently, 31 states participate in the Mechanism: all 28 EU member states as well as Iceland , Norway and northern Macedonia . The mechanism was set up to coordinate aid from participating states to victims of natural and man-made disasters in Europe and the rest of the world.

After the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 , the Barroso II Commission accepted the prize money on behalf of the EU and allocated it to the new “Children of Peace” initiative. In 2013, around EUR 2 million flowed into the “Children of Peace” project. In 2014 the amount was increased to EUR 4 million.


The European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) was established in 1992 by the second Delors Commission . Since the European Community was dissolved in 2009, the office became the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission or European Union; however, the acronym ECHO was retained.

In 2010, in accordance with Articles 214 and 196 of the Lisbon Treaty , in which humanitarian aid and civil protection play a sustainable role, a new Commissioner was appointed with responsibility for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response. ECHO's official name has been changed to Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. The restructuring of ECHO included the integration of civil protection in the ECHO Directorate-General; until then, the Environment Directorate-General was responsible for this area of ​​responsibility. The rebuild is seen as a step towards better collaboration and decision-making in an area where quick response saves lives.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism also enabled the establishment of the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC), a civil protection center to monitor disasters and improve preparedness and resilience of countries particularly vulnerable to disasters. The most recent use of the Civil Protection Mechanism took place during the floods in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Mission and principles

In the area of ​​humanitarian aid, ECHO's mandate is to provide immediate and emergency aid (in the form of goods and services) to victims of conflict and natural and man-made disasters outside the EU. The mandate also extends to the prevention of disasters and post-crisis operations.

Europe's humanitarian aid is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The implementation is therefore based on the application of international humanitarian law .

Humanity means that human suffering must be alleviated everywhere; particular attention is paid to the most vulnerable population groups.

Neutrality means that humanitarian aid cannot favor either side of an armed conflict or any other dispute.

Impartiality means that humanitarian aid - without any discrimination - must be provided solely on the basis of need.

Independence means that humanitarian goals cannot be tied to political, economic, military or other goals.

In 2007, on the initiative of Commissioner Louis Michel , the European Commission adopted the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid , the first European political text to refer to humanitarian aid. NGOs were actively involved in the development of the European Consensus and it can be seen as the most comprehensive text that comes closest to a common position of NGOs. The European Consensus reaffirms the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. He also stressed that humanitarian aid is "not a crisis management tool".

In 2012, the consensus was revised for the first time since its adoption by ECHO, highlighting the need for stronger partnerships through quality-based partner selection and ensuring better accountability to citizens and stakeholders.

Also in 2012, ECHO and other donors worked with the Interinstitutional Standing Committee (IASC) on the transformation agenda. Principles of humanitarian leadership, accountability and coordination were agreed to help respond more quickly, efficiently and effectively to humanitarian crises. In addition, civil protection has been commissioned by DG ECHO to ensure better cooperation and protection during disasters between third countries and non-EU regions and international organizations.

Legal basis

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty , Article 214 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union has regulated EU activities in the field of humanitarian aid. Joint responsibility applies to humanitarian aid with mutual consideration of individual approaches. This means that the EU pursues an independent political approach, which neither prevents the member states from taking action themselves, nor makes the EU merely an “agent” of the political approaches of the member states.

Until then, humanitarian aid was based - in the absence of provisions of its own - on Article 179 of the EC Treaty (development policy). At that time it fell under the responsibility of the Commissioner for Development (first Louis Michel and then Karel De Gucht in the Barroso I Commission ). With the Treaty of Lisbon, humanitarian aid was included for the first time as a separate policy in the Treaty on European Union.

As stated in Article 214, the EU's humanitarian operations aim to provide immediate and emergency aid to people in third countries who are victims of natural or man-made disasters. Article 214 also emphasizes once again the principles of humanitarian aid, namely compliance with international law and the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and non-discrimination.

In 2013, the Commission adopted new provisions on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism that allow for better coordination and support to make disaster prevention, preparation and response systems more effective. Legislation has established a voluntary pool of pre-committed capacity and materials for crisis response, a training network for first responders and a new approach to disaster risk management for the 31 participating states.

The Lisbon Treaty also set up a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps (Article 214 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), which Europeans who wish to participate directly in humanitarian aid can join.

EU Humanitarian Aid Volunteers

The European Commission has launched an initiative to create over 18,000 jobs between 2014 and 2020 so that citizens around the world can volunteer in humanitarian crisis situations. The initiative trains volunteers together in a European training program before they are deployed to certified humanitarian organizations. In 2012, it was decided to support five pilot projects with a focus on strengthening resilience and capacities in civil protection with around 150 volunteers.

In February 2014, the European Parliament (EP) voted for the initiative. Volunteers can be sent to EU-funded humanitarian operations around the world, work for humanitarian organizations within the EU or support humanitarian operations online from home.

Participating NGOs go through a certification process to ensure that they meet European standards for guiding volunteers.


In 2013, DG ECHO's humanitarian aid budget was less than 1% of the total EU budget. The European Commission also used its Emergency Aid Reserve to respond to crises and unexpected disasters. Including the funds from the reserve, the 2013 budget totaled EUR 1.35 billion. In the humanitarian sector, ECHO provided assistance to over 124 million people in 90 non-EU countries, 39 of which were identified as being in crisis. In the area of ​​civil protection, the mechanism was activated 36 times in 2013 during crises inside and outside the EU.

Most of the funds (40%) go to food and nutrition. Other main areas ECHO funds are health and medical care (including psychological support - 13%), water and sanitation (13%), housing (19%) and protection (7%). ECHO allocated 3% of the 2013 budget to natural disaster preparedness, a decrease compared to 2012. Civil protection accounted for 2% of the budget.

In 2013, 40% of the budget went to Africa, 18% to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and 32% to the Middle East and the Mediterranean region.

Development aid reached an all-time high in 2010. Together with the individual contributions of the individual member states, the EU is the largest donor in the world. Of the EUR 9.8 billion made available for humanitarian aid worldwide in 2010, around 41% came from the EU.

The budget adopted for 2014 includes humanitarian and civil protection commitments of almost EUR 1 billion.


ECHO's mission is to save and protect lives in and after emergencies, regardless of whether the disasters are natural or man-made. In accordance with these principles, the Commission is required to develop a written strategy each year to coordinate and plan tasks efficiently and appropriately using an impartial and needs-based approach.

In 2013, ECHO intended to focus humanitarian aid on almost 90 countries. The five largest humanitarian missions were the Sahel in West Africa, including further aid to the conflict in Mali (EUR 82 million), Sudan and South Sudan (EUR 80 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (EUR 54 million), Pakistan (EUR 42 million) and Somalia (EUR 40 million). In addition, 40% of ECHO's humanitarian aid is earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa.

The reserve was used to respond to major humanitarian crises in Syria, Mali, the Sahel, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, as well as the Philippines. ECHO also financed humanitarian operations in forgotten crises in Bangladesh, Colombia, Yemen, Algeria, Pakistan and Myanmar.

Public opinion

A 2012 Eurobarometer survey on humanitarian aid shows that EU citizens feel very solidarity with victims of conflict and natural disasters outside their borders. Nine in ten EU citizens think it is important for the European Union to fund humanitarian aid operations outside the EU and eight in ten think that coordinated EU actions on civil protection are more effective than national actions.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ECHO Humanitarian Aid Factsheet 2013
  2. Global Humanitarian Assistance Website
  3. ECHO Annual Report 2012
  4. Humanitarian Aid, [1]
  5. ^ ECHO Field Network , ECHO, accessed July 29, 2014
  6. ^ EU dedicates its Nobel Peace Prize to Education projects for Children in Conflict , accessed June 27, 2014
  7. ^ EU Civil Protection , accessed July 23, 2014.
  8. ^ Glossaries of abstracts: Humanitarian Aid
  9. European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid
  10. European consensus on humanitarian aid. Retrieved March 7, 2014 .
  11. Pierre Salignon: L'Europe humanitaire en question (s) . In: Humanitaire . tape 19 , Été 2008, October 23, 2009 (French, [accessed January 16, 2012]).
  12. Annual Report on the Implementation of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid - 2012
  13. Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
  14. Lisbon Treaty: Questions and Answers, archive link ( Memento from September 24, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  15. Humanitarian Aid, [2]
  16. ^ Trend, Eastern Partnership countries to gather for civil protection meeting of June 10, 2014, accessed June 27, 2014
  17. ^ EU Aid Volunteers: Commission proposes new global humanitarian initiative
  18. Richard Jones: New EU aid volunteers program to make a 'concrete, positive difference' . In: Devex. February 26, 2014, accessed June 23, 2014
  19. ECHO 2013 Annual Report
  20. ECHO, ECHO's finances ( Memento from July 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  21. ECHO, Humanitarian aid and civil protection - 2014 Adopted budget
  22. Where the European Commission's humanitarian aid will go in 2013 from January 10, 2013, accessed on June 27, 2014
  23. Eurobarometer survey on humanitarian aid: Europeans care - and endorse the Commission's mandate , European Commission, 2012, accessed on 23 July 2014