Brussels, 23 February 1995
The European Union should get more involved in humanitarian aid, through direct action if possible. That was the verdict in a European Union-wide opinion poll on humanitarian aid, carried out by Eurobarometer service. Among other key findings was a call on the EU to tell the world more about what it is doing in humanitarian aid. Those polled thought the Union kept too low a profile.
The European Union is the biggest donor of humanitarian aid in the world (see background note below for further details). The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the service set up two years ago to manage aid, usually works through non-governamental organisations and through specialist agencies, particularly those of the United Nations family. Its partners include Medecins Sans Frontieres, Save the Children Fund, Caritas and the Red Cross.
Nearly three-quarters of those polled in all 12 Member States last December were aware the EU was active in the field of humanitarian aid, particularly in Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia. But very few had heard of ECHO as such, nor had they seen its logo in the two years since the service was set up.
People were asked whether the European Union should go on working through specialist organisations, or whether it should intervene directly. Nearly six out of 10 thought the European Union should take more direct action. Nearly half thought it should boost the amount it spent on humanitarian aid, and a third thought the EU should at least keep spending steady at the current level. Over 40 per cent thought it was best to channel aid through the EU, rather than to leave activities to each Member State individually.
Over three-quarters of those polled thought ECHO should do more to tell the world what the European Union is doing in the field of humanitarian aid. They were far more familiar with the activities of some of the key United Nations organisations whose actions ECHO helps to fund than with the EU's own contributions. For example, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was particularly well known, as was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Though the European Union is actually the world's biggest donor of humanitarian aid, many people thought the United States, through USAID, gave more than the EU. The well-established USAID was far better known than ECHO.
Highlights from the questions in detail:
- Had you heard of EU humanitarian aid to Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia before this interview? YES: Rwanda 72.3 per cent, ex-Yugoslavia 74 per cent. NO: Rwanda 20.1 per cent, ex-Yugoslavia 18.5 per cent.
- Had you heard of ECHO before this interview? YES: 14.3 per cent, NO: 79.5 per cent.
- Do you think ECHO should give more information? YES: 76 per cent. NO: 1.9 per cent.
- Do you think the EU should give more humanitarian aid? YES: 49.3 per cent. NO: 5.1 per cent. Keep it at the same level? 32.2 per cent.
- Do you think the EU should go on giving aid through its partners, or should it get more involved in the field? GO ON AS NOW: 27.6 per cent. MORE DIRECT ACTION: 58.5 per cent.
Eurobarometer no 42 for the European Commission, European Community Humanitarian Office.