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Lessons learned from Haiti: the report's 10 recommendations (exclusive)

HsPelikanHaiti@Nl100115(B2) After the earthquake in Haiti, it is time to learn lessons. A report drawn up by the services of Catherine Ashton and Kristalina Georgieva was presented today to the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg (NB: it will be discussed this afternoon).

I was able to read this report in full (in preview). And it is interesting because it outlines many points for improvement even if it fails in certain points (read my comment).

The report highlights how the European response has been “ rapid, large-scale and comprehensive » faced with the intensity of the disaster (1). But he is careful not to be triumphant. “ There are good reasons to be relatively satisfied (…) but there is no room for complacency. "If all the structures worked" in the spirit of Lisbon “, the earthquake underlined – explains the report – the need “ improve the EU's crisis response capacity in major disasters, both in terms of efficiency, coordination and visibility underlines the report. It is necessary " strengthen the effectiveness of each of the components (civil protection, humanitarian aid and if necessary military means) and ensure their coordination.

NB: For greater readability, I have grouped the different aspects of the report into ten recommendations.

1. A rule for the use of military means in the event of a disaster.

Haiti showed "theusefulness of a contribution of robust military means” which have made it possible to fill critical capacity gaps
“particularly in terms of transport (cargo, planes, helicopters) and engineering ". But the modalities and circumstances of the mobilization of military means must be in line with the principles and guidelines set out in the European consensus on humanitarian aid: “ needs-based approach, complementarity as a last resort when humanitarian capacities are not met, and under civilian leadership »

2. Pre-positioned stocks and transport capacity.

On the humanitarian side, the system of relief depots and pre-positioned stocks (set up by the UN and the Red Cross) has shown its effectiveness. The EU must strengthen the capacity of humanitarian deposits (made by NGOs or Member States).

Transport remains the Achilles' heel » operations and “affected the operational capacity” of these stocks. The EU must invest in the logistical or transport capacities of humanitarian organizations or Member States (see my comment).

3. Planning of civil protection means and stand-by forces.

On the civil protection side, the existing mechanism worked well, but it still relies (too much) on voluntary work and ad hoc contributions/offers, subject to different national decision-making procedures ". Which implies " inevitably a degree of improvisation in the crisis response phase. Deployment decisions are postponed. And it is not possible to guarantee the availability of the necessary resources.

Four solutions are on the table:

– planning of civil protection operations on the basis of reference scenarios, with more precise knowledge of the capacities of Member States;

– the extension of “stand-by” agreements and the creation of a poll of key Member States which can be used during EU operations (NB: the word EU Fast is not pronounced. But we think about it);

– strengthening the role of the EU “civil protection” cell (MIC);

– the development of transport agreements, to enable deployment (NB: here too!).

4. Better civilian-military interaction.

The lack of joint deployment experiences “explains the current situation”. The report therefore recommends a “ greater familiarity » between the structures of the PeSDC and the European Commission. (NB: that’s beautifully said!) And coordination “should be improved in the future”.

5. Deployment of personnel on the ground: technical experts, consular support, EU liaison officers.

On the European side, there are still a number of points to be improved as well.

If rapid deployment procedures (fast-track procedures) exist for humanitarian aid and civil protection, similar procedures would be necessary for other groups of experts (administrative, logistical, security, assistance to Member States in consular management or information). The deployment of experts on these issues should be considered. And the presence of EU liaison officers within the UN system should be considered.

The MIC should also send “ systematically » technical support and assistance teams (TAST), accompanied by communications kits and other transportable structures.

6. Enhanced assessment: joint teams and post-disaster assessment

The EU's evaluation capacity must be improved by sending joint ECHO-MIC and Member States evaluation teams.

The report also recommends having a better evaluation of the first post-emergency reconstruction aid (PDNA), with pre-identified experts, at the Commission and the Member States who will have developed a common concept for the PDNA, with a rotation system and adequate training.

7. Streamline existing crisis centers.

We must “rationalize existing centers” (NB: there are almost ten of them today). Fortunately, the Lisbon Treaty promotes this state of mind. On the one hand, the integration of civil protection and humanitarian aid in the same direction; on the other, the future crisis response center of the Diplomatic Service (SEAE/EEAS) which will bring together three cells: the Sitcen (information monitoring and consular protection), the watchkeeping cell (WKC) of the General Staff of the EU (live from PeSDC missions) and the DG Relex crisis platform (political analysis). In the event of a major crisis, the two systems should be brought together, according to a standard approach “ Task Force ". As for the coordination of military resources, the report is less verbose, specifying that it must hold “where military expertise is available“, that is to say at the level of the military staff.

8. A policy coordination rule.

Haiti was the first real life experience » of the application of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty (while all its structures have not yet been put in place). The report therefore recommends a guideline. In the event of a disaster of this type, major and multidimensional, it is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, also Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP) who ensures the political lead for EU coordination (covering the action of the EU and its Member States) and to represent the EU at all levels. “The presentation of united EU positions, as happened at the donor conference for Haiti in New York, must become the norm.” In the event of “normal”, smaller disasters, which “ do not require a joint commitment of all EU measures ", it is the European Commission which " ensures the operational lead in close cooperation with the HR ».

9. And a field coordination rule.

The " EU head of delegation should play a more central role in coordinating and sharing information more effectively from the EU family on the ground (including member state missions) ". It must also ensure, at a political level, contact and liaison between the EU and local authorities and other key international actors. If necessary, Brussels must be able to quickly strengthen the EU delegation by providing it with equipment and personnel.

10. Visibility to review.

« The EU's substantial effort was not always visible to the European or international public » (NB: this is an understatement, see also'interview with K.Georgieva). To remedy this, the report
suggest a few solutions:

– the presentation of EU aid data in a global manner including data from Member States (NB: this was a problem during the relief operation in Haiti);

– require partners (UN, Red Cross, NGOs, etc.) to display the EU logo;

– have an EU badge (possibly double EU/National badge) for EU and Member State personnel deployed in the field;

– deploy media and communication experts in the field.

A survivor brought out of the rubble by a French rescue team with American support (photo credit: US Army!)


Comment: an interesting report but too incomplete to be credible

Ultimately, this report is very interesting. But it seems to me rather conformist, incomplete and not very in-depth, particularly on the military aspect. In my opinion, it does not allow me to clearly outline the necessities (NB: I know, I'm being harsh. But it's reality).

So he mentions the military contribution, and its usefulness, but does not really draw any conclusions from it. It also demonstrates a profound lack of understanding, or even total ignorance, of the reality of the PeSDC, in particular its civil aspect and its recent developments. For example, in terms of transport, one of the primary needs encountered, he does not mention the imminent establishment of the European Air Command (EATC) in Eindhoven (in September) (3). However, it is part of the answer to this need. A high-ranking officer recently confirmed to me the availability of these tactical and strategic means of transport. This should greatly facilitate the European response tomorrow since it will only take one phone call to Eindhoven to have the necessary means (if the Member States so desire). A clear step forward!

In terms of visibility, I also find it quite “light”, for what was the major failure of the EU's action in Haiti (4). A big miss for the European com'). Among the solutions proposed, some have already been resolved for a long time in other forums. Thus, civilian or military personnel of the PeSDC already have a double EU/national badge. If the military can do it, why not the civilians!

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also

(1) Earthquake in Haiti. European aid: 6 ships, 3000 men… In detail

(2) K. Georgieva: We must not keep our flag in our pocket

(3) Green light to European Air Command EATC. A small revolution

(4) Haiti. A beautiful miss for the European com '...

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).