The mandate of the European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) encompasses humanitarian assistance and civil protection, the two main instruments at the European Union's disposal to ensure rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance to people faced with the immediate consequences of disasters.
DG ECHO provides humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable victims of disasters in their immediate aftermath and also in cases of complex and protracted crisis situations
DG ECHO's humanitarian assistance is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, is implemented in partnership with international organisations and humanitarian NGOs and based on solid needs assessment.
DG ECHO strongly supports the central and overall coordinating role of the United Nations in promoting a coherent international response to humanitarian crises and helps to make the EU's voice heard in international fora on humanitarian aid. In order to ensure the lasting impact of relief assistance on populations in countries affected by crisis, DG ECHO develops and implements policy frameworks aimed at maximising impact and results, including as regards coherent transition strategies towards sustained development.
With regard to its civil protection mandate, DG ECHO encourages and facilitates the cooperation between the 31 States participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (28 EU Member States in addition to Iceland, Norway, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing and protecting against natural, technological or man-made disasters in Europe.
Day by day, DG ECHO mobilises help for people in need. This help and assistance is a fundamental expression of the European value of solidarity with people in need, as endorsed and underpinned by new legal bases for both humanitarian aid and civil protection enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as resulting from the Treaty of Lisbon.
Disaster Reduction Goal
The DIPECHO programme had been expanded over the years and now covers seven disaster prone regions: the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Central Asia, South Asia, South East Asia and South East Africa and South West Indian Ocean (see map). The projects funded by the programme include simple and inexpensive preparatory measures, often implemented by the communities themselves. They have proven extremely effective in limiting damage and saving lives when hazards suddenly strike. DIPECHO-projects will typically emphasize training, capacity-building, awareness-raising, establishment or improvement of local early-warning systems and contingency-planning. There are numerous examples that these simple and community-owned preparedness measures enable communities at risk to save their own lives and livelihoods when disaster strikes. As any other relief provided by ECHO, DIPECHO projects are carried out by European-based aid agencies and UN agencies in close cooperation with local NGOs and authorities.
The best results are only achieved when there is effective co-operation between citizens, civil society groups and local, regional and national authorities. ECHO has found that in most cases, community organisations and municipalities are enthusiastic and actively contribute to DIPECHO activities. In 2008 alone, ECHO has allocated €32.3 million for disaster preparedness in the Central Asia, South East Asia, Central America and South East Africa and South West Indian Ocean.
Contribution to international Disaster Risk Reduction efforts – the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015
ECHO strongly supports all international efforts, including those coordinated by the United Nations, to increase disaster risk reduction worldwide.
ECHO therefore actively supported the World Conference for Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan in January 2005 following the Tsunami. This conference was one of the milestone events that led to the formulation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 and the international commitment to strengthen the International System for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) established within the auspices of UN OCHA. During the first session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held in 2007, ECHO shared its strategy and experience in a panel on Strengthening Preparedness in Disaster Risk Reduction. Once again, ECHO is actively supporting the 2nd session of the Global Platform (June 2009) during which the EU Strategy supporting Disaster Risk Reduction in developing countries will be presented to government representatives, specialised UN agencies, lead donors, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, scientific and regional experts, and civil society representatives.
Reducing underlying risk factors (HFA 4)
Advocacy towards mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development cooperation:
The DIPECHO programme has been designed to demonstrate measures and initiatives at community-level and can serve as components of integrated disaster risk reduction strategies for a municipality, district or even at national level. However, Disaster Risk Reduction is a long-term development effort and ECHO is therefore encouraging other stakeholders that can provide longer-term financing to systematically integrate disaster risk reduction in their strategies. ECHO has actively participated to the development of the EU Strategy supporting Disaster Risk Reduction in developing countries, adopted in February 2009. This Strategy commits the EU to integrate DRR considerations more effectively into EU development and humanitarian policies. An implementation plan is currently under preparation to turn this strategy into action.
ECHO intends to continue its advocacy work towards development services of the European Commission (DG RELEX and DG Development), the European Union Member States, national governments, international financial institutions and other development partners. As show-cased in the website section with eye-witness accounts, DIPECHO projects have made a real difference to vulnerable communities. The challenge ahead is to ensure that disaster risk reduction becomes an integral part of sustainable development policy – in particular in countries at high risk.
Preparedness for effective response (HFA 5)
Integrating disaster preparedness in relief operations:
ECHO’s contribution to disaster preparedness goes well beyond the DIPECHO programme as many of ECHO’s major humanitarian financing decisions include disaster preparedness or mitigation of disaster impacts as an objective. Even post-disaster emergency responses often have a risk reduction element. Examples of such activities include livestock shelters built after extreme cold snaps to protect against further losses of depleted herds (Peru); training and equipping of community-based fire brigades in forest fire risk zones (Indonesia); cholera preparedness and health information (Malawi); and anti-rust measures to prevent water pollution and protect pipes from the effects of volcanic ash (Ecuador).
These activities are undertaken as an integral part of the ECHO relief operations in areas affected by ongoing humanitarian crises. The establishment of suitable crisis information, alert and rapid damage-assessment systems for the humanitarian community can also be considered as mainstreaming.
In recent years, ECHO has commissioned an evaluation on DRR mainstreaming and launched humanitarian decisions with significant preparedness components such as the 2007 Sahel Global Plan, the 2008 and 2009 decisions on regional drought preparedness in the Great Horn of Africa, or the 2008 Ad hoc decision on Myanmar following cyclone Nargis.
Making Cities Resilient Campaign Activities
- Support the Making Cities Resilient Campaign through activities related to the UNISDR Capacity Building project in 2010-2011: Resilient Cities Campaign website, Development of the Local Government Self Assessment Tool
- Support the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, previous campaigns and the One Million Safe School and Hospitals initiative through several DIPECHO action plans in different regions (e.g. Asia, South Americas, Central America, etc)