Humanitarian aidBlog AnalysisEU Institutions

[Analysis] Echo an organism a little too efficient?

(B2 archives) The main task of the European humanitarian agency is to distribute European subsidies and ensure the visibility of European aid. Echo intends to develop the evaluation of its effectiveness

Created in 1992, the European Communities Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has become in recent years the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world, a " key player on the global humanitarian scene », as he likes to proclaim himself.

Five billion euros injected

Since its creation, it has injected more than five billion euros into various projects and is currently present in around thirty conflict zones and in more than 85 countries around the world. His strength, and his weakness as well, he draws from a fact. Only 8% of funds are spent directly by the European office or the specialized agencies of the Member States. It is essentially non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, mainly the High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international Red Cross movement which have become the main managers of European subsidies.

A weapon: the evaluation of financing

This shows the importance of monitoring the effectiveness of financing. The humanitarian agency has developed several types of assessments: ex-ante », analyzes of the situation are carried out before any operation by independent experts; " we go “, teams of “monitors” and visits by Commission officials check the smooth running of humanitarian operations; " ex post Once the operation is completed, fund recipients must submit narrative and financial reports.

Noted quality

The work carried out by ECHO is often appreciated by its interlocutors. An impression supported by a detailed assessment of “ all actions financed by the Community conducted in 1999 by a specialist firm, Franklin Advisory Services. " The quality of Echo's work is at least comparable to that of other similar international organizations and sometimes far superior note the fifteen consultants at the end of a thick report, of more than 500 pages. Corn " flaws, youth “, as we prefer to call them at the European Commission, remain.

Youth defects

On the one hand, Echo's workforce is " too restricted and the direction is " overworked ". The report also mentions the inadequacy of “some of the administrative procedures with the specific criteria of speed and efficiency inherent in the humanitarian emergency”. On the other hand, the self-assessment of the projects — by the beneficiary associations — is lacking. " Often no information on the level of cost/effectiveness is available. Thus on the projects carried out in the former Yugoslavia or in Rwanda, no monitoring or evaluation was planned. What shouldn't have been allowed say the experts.

But above all, the main danger of Echo is… its effectiveness. Alongside its traditional missions of being a financial backer, a catalyst for European solidarity, Echo is, in fact, sometimes called upon to help when the other Commission services find themselves unable to act - to due to rigid procedure or lack of resources.

A “handy stopper”!

On several occasions, the Office has thus served " to perform gestures of goodwill with the speed and visibility required on certain grounds or towards certain States. Very often at the request of governments or parliamentarians anxious to show their effectiveness in the eyes of their public opinion. The same people are then just as quick to point an accusing finger at European aid deemed too expensive or not very objective… European policy is not short of a paradox.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) article published in La Tribune 2001

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).