ECHO (European Commission)

ECHO (European Commission)

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The Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO), formerly known as the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office, is the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

's department for overseas humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

. In 2007 it provided €768 million for emergency relief, a number that rose to €930 million in 2009 .


European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) was established in 1992 by the Second Delors Commission. Funding from the office affects 18 million people every year in 60 countries. It spends €700 million a year on humanitarian projects through its over 200 partners (such as the Red Cross, Relief NGOs and UN
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 agencies). It claims a key focus is to make EU aid more effective and humanitarian. With the European Community being abolished in 2009, the office began to be known as the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission or European Union, but kept its ECHO abbreviation.


In 2006, ECHO's aid budget amounted to 671 million euro, 48% of which went to the ACP countries
ACP countries
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States is a group of countries , created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975. The group's main objectives are sustainable development and poverty reduction within its member states, as well as their greater integration into the world's economy...

. Together with the aid given by member states individually, the Union is the largest aid donor in the world.


The former commissioner for aid
European Commissioner for Development & Humanitarian Aid
The Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response is a member of the European Commission. The post is currently held by Kristalina Georgieva....

, Louis Michel
Louis Michel
Louis H. O. Ch. Michel is a Belgian politician. He served in the government of Belgium as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2004 and was European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid from 2004 to 2009. Since 2009, he has been a Member of the European Parliament...

, had called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect and on humanitarian principles.

Some charities have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students and refugees. Under the de-inflated figures, the Union did not reach its internal aid target in 2006.

Since February 2010 after the approval of the new college of the European Commission the ECHO was put on another level. The appointment of a new commissioner with portfolio for International cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response corresponds to the Articles of the Treaty of Lisbon where Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection play a sustainable role. ECHO's new official name was changed to Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. The transformation of ECHO and movement of Civil Protection Units from DG Environment to DG ECHO is a step forward to a better cooperation and decision making in a field where rapid reaction is lifesaving.

European Parliament Report

The Committee on Development (CD) of the European Parliament (EP) commissioned the Overseas Development Institute
Overseas Development Institute
The Overseas Development Institute is one of the leading independent think tanks on international development and humanitarian issues. Based in London, its mission is "to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement...

 to undertake a project on the effectiveness of international development assistance from the European Commission. The project focused on the cases of Cambodia, Mozambique and Peru. The findings and policy suggested can be summarized as follows:
  1. Harmonisation and alignment (H&A) is crucial for state capacity and should be expanded from sharing and spreading information to increasing joint activities in the short-term.
  2. Donor harmonisation efforts need to be scaled up to include agreements on joint technical assistance and the streamlining of systems and procedures
  3. Extremely fragmented aid systems impose unreasonably high transaction costs on the government, drains valuable resources, and fundamentally weakens state capacity.
  4. EC procedures and structures remain highly complicated and bureaucratic.
  5. Much of the success or failure of cooperation depends on individual interactions, specific innovators and appropriate staffing levels to carry out the tasks at hand, but the costs are also quite high.
  6. Country Strategy Papers could improve aid effectiveness — but their quality is uneven.
  7. Relations between HQ and delegations needs to be improved.

See also

  • Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs , is a United Nations body formed in December 1991 by General Assembly Resolution 46/182...

  • Emergency management
    Emergency management
    Emergency management is the generic name of an interdisciplinary field dealing with the strategic organizational management processes used to protect critical assets of an organization from hazard risks that can cause events like disasters or catastrophes and to ensure the continuance of the...

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