EUR 11.6 billion was allocated to the humanitarian aid instrument for the 2021-2027 period. The EU is the world’s leading humanitarian aid donor, providing a major proportion of global funding for emergency relief to victims of man-made and natural disasters. Part of that funding comes directly from Member States, but a large share comes from the EU budget.
The Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) is responsible for humanitarian assistance and civil protection. EU humanitarian aid focuses on food and nutrition, shelter, healthcare, water and sanitation, and education in emergencies.
ECHO has grown over the years and has local staff in more than 40 field offices. It does not implement humanitarian assistance programmes itself; rather, it funds operations implemented by its partners, namely non-governmental organisations (NGOs), UN agencies and international organisations such as the International Red Cross/Red Crescent. ECHO’s main tasks are to provide funds, verify that finances are managed soundly and ensure that its partners’ goods and services reach the affected populations effectively and rapidly in order to respond to real needs.
The Commission proposed the creation of a European Humanitarian Response Capacity in its 2021 communication on EU humanitarian action. While in general, the EU’s humanitarian aid will continue to be delivered by the EU’s humanitarian partners, the European Humanitarian Response Capacity would for the first time allow the EU to intervene directly in humanitarian crises in cases when traditional humanitarian delivery mechanisms via EU partners or their capacities may be ineffective or insufficient.
Following the onset of a natural disaster or other event requiring humanitarian assistance, ECHO’s humanitarian aid experts carry out an initial assessment of the situation on the ground. Funds are then rapidly disbursed on the basis of this assessment - this is the ‘needs-based approach’ that defines ECHO’s work. Aid is channelled through more than 200 partners with which ECHO has signed ex ante contractual agreements. ECHO’s structure ensures that funds are used transparently and that partners remain accountable.