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  • on 27.02.2014
  • at 02:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Humanitarian Aid: ECHO funds at risk? 0

The EU Humanitarian office is currently not able to implement humanitarian funding for 2014, due to delays in payment of the Member States. A solution is now under evaluation.

ECHO funding at risk? The news circulating amongst the NGO sector and EU Institution is shocking, in case it is confirmed. The Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) that coordinates the EU humanitarian projects (funding implementing NGOs) is facing a lack of cash, due to delays in payment by the Member States.

To date, there is a gap of  € 400 million compared to ECHO’s approved budget for Humanitarian activities. Now, according to the Commission Implementing Decision of January 3rd 2014, the approved EU humanitarian aid budget is €758 million. “The Commission says the situation is not critical, yet NGOs were asked to cut their project proposals’ budget by 50%” explains Member of European Parliament, Patrizia Toia. “We undertook several initiatives, such as a formal letter demanding more information, there will be further actions as the answers we received so far are not satisfying.”

Reports and letters on this matter are circulating in Brussels. On 20th January, Claus Sorensen – Director General of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection at the European Commission – wrote to over 200 NGOs, demonstrating the difficult situation ECHO is faced with. Actually, Sorensen already revealed the possible credit crunch in autumn 2013.

“I am today in position to inform you that the Commission recognises that a further injection of payment appropriations will be needed for the humanitarian aid budget“, says Sorensen to reassure NGOs. Also informing that “Part of the needs is expected to be covered by transfers before the summer” whereas “another part will come in the later part of the year.”

In the meantime, on 4th March a new hearing will be held jointly by the Development and Budgets  Committees of the European Parliament. NGOs are on the lookout, analysing the matter and its consequences. “It is a delicate situation, that we are following from very close to reduce the impact in the field” says Kathrin Schick, Director of NGO Voice (Voluntary Organisations in Cooperation in Emergencies), a network representing 83 European NGOs active in humanitarian aid worldwide. Despite the economic risks that threaten the sector, Schick highlights that “ECHO does a very good job” implying that the problem does not rely on ECHO, that would rather prevent these cuts. They depend instead on the European Commission budgetary authority, that has to handle pressure from the Member States demanding a reduction of the general budget of the EU.

By Daniele Biella (Milan), Joshua Massarenti and Evelina Urgolo (Brussels) – Vita/Afronline 

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