21 March 1995
ECHO's (European Community Humanitarian Office) biggest single partner in humanitarian aid is the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Nearly a quarter of the relief funding that ECHO put through its partners last year (23.38 per cent) went through UNHCR. The total amounted to 166 million European Currency Units (Ecus). UN agencies as a whole were granted 229 million Ecus of ECHO funding.
The Commission provided about 23 per cent of UNHCR's total donor income, and over four-fifths of it came from ECHO. If funding provided by Member States is added to the picture, the European Union provided UNHCR with 53 per cent of its 1994 budget.
ECHO and UNHCR developed a special relationship right from the outset. Set up in 1992, ECHO became the main source of funding for actions in ex-Yugoslavia, while UNHCR took on the role of lead agency. In the summer of 1994, ECHO entrusted UNHCR with a major package of funds for actions in Rwanda. UNHCR thus became the main coordinator of non-governmental organisations on the ground.
UNHCR and ECHO signed a Framework Partnership Agreement for humanitarian aid on December 13, 1993. A Joint High-Level Group was set up to coordinate UNHCR and EC actions and strategies. Within the Commission itself, a High-Level Inter-Service Group was established to ensure that there would be a coherent policy for aid to refugees outside the European Community. ECHO chairs this group, comprising ECHO itself, DGI and DGVIII.
As a result of this group's work, Council adopted a Communication on the Coordination of Aid towards Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Returnees in Third Countries on November 25, 1994.
This mechanism has five aims:
* support for refugees from relief to development
* better prevention of refugee flows
* links with the asylum and immigration policies of the Commission
* creation of a Permanent Inter-Service Group to help the Commission formulate policy on refugees
* to ensure the Commission speaks with one voice vis-a-vis UNHCR and other operators in the field.
UNHCR's second joint meeting with the EU is scheduled for April.
FACTS AND FIGURES - HIGHLIGHTS
* ECHO funding for UNHCR: 1993 - 88.225 million Ecu. 1994 - 166 million Ecu.
* UNHCR projects as a percentage of all ECHO contracts: 1993: 14.8 per cent.; 1994: 23.4 per cent.
* Geographical breakdown of ECHO-financed UNHCR operations (selected figures): 1993 - former Yugoslavia, 83.3 per cent, ACP 12.7 per cent, CIS 3.3 per cent. 1994 - ACP 65 per cent, former Yugoslavia, 32.3 per cent.