My brief was pretty simple: “Write a blog reflecting on the HIPs* 2017 process”. I spent last night thinking about what I could write that would be more than a mere emotional rant over the fact that there is practically no EU money left this year to prevent, mitigate, manage and respond to crises worldwide.
I wanted to spare the obvious comments about protracted crises, or the fact that year on year we’ve witnessed an increase in the frequency and ferocity of natural, man-made and complex crises and disasters, with an estimated 100 million people likely to be in need of aid this year.
DRR: Off the funding radar
But what about the desperately needed work on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and conflict prevention and management that the EU has supported for many years across the world? It’s striking to see that those regions where DRR has proven for years to be the entry point for the EU to keep testing, scaling up and forging models of resilience from community to national to regional levels have almost completely disappeared from ECHO’s funding radar this year: the regional HIPs for South Asia and Southeast Asia have merged into one; the budget for Central America is half of last year’s; South America has been allocated €5 million (yes, the whole of South America).
Where is all the money?
The fact that the overall humanitarian aid budget went back to the figures of the “pre-2016 boom” was to be expected. However, it’s not only that resources to DRR have been eroded everywhere. We have seen the budget of every single regional and global HIP drop dramatically compared to last year: half for Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad; half for South Sudan; one third for Yemen, and the list goes on. If the budget of the Worldwide Decision is in the range of the last year’s budget, but all regional budgets which are part of it were significantly cut, where did/will the funds go?
Top-ups allocated throughout the year to respond to new or intensified crisis aside, it’s fair to say that a large chunk of money will be allocated to the Directorate on Europe, Eastern Neighbourhood and Middle East, that was created in mid-2016.
And this is what’s worth raising here, rant apart. In accordance with the humanitarian principles, established by the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, the EU seeks to address the needs of the most vulnerable people facing a humanitarian crisis and disaster.
A needs-based approach is adopted to ensure aid is provided in different countries according to their respective needs, independent of any pressure. The approach also guarantees the credibility and transparency of EU humanitarian aid.
The methodology is very detailed and includes different dimensions and various sources of information and analysis including the Index for Risk Management, the Forgotten Crisis Assessment, the Integrated Analysis Framework, etc. This framework provides the evidence base for prioritisation of needs, funding allocation and development of the HIPs (for the curious readers out there, a very detailed outlined can be found online).
Methodologically speaking, assuming that the HIP funding allocation has followed a needs-based approach, the principles and the framework outlined above, we could fairly assume that since last year, the needs of the populations in CAR, Chad and South Sudan have substantially decreased.
Yes, I know: this is a very simplistic and superficial conclusion, which doesn’t take into considerations many dimensions, indicators and of course the reason of politics.
Or needs-based no more?
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: in the face of competing crises and dwindling resources, the EU is making deliberate choices about what crises and conflicts it directs its funds towards. Humanitarian aid is supposed to be based on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
But, increasingly, it is being repurposed to meet political objectives, based more on the self-interest of EU Member States than on these humanitarian principles. At the moment, halting migration to Europe seems to be the number one aim.
Humanitarian partner organisations remain a resource for the EC to invert this dangerous trend and be where it’s needed, no matter of how near or far from the EU’s borders.
The HIPs 2017 have unfortunately proven the opposite so far, but we humanitarian partners continue to believe that the EU has the potential to set the standard by which others must follow: to provide adequate, predictable and impartial assistance to those most in need. Now we want to be proven right.
* Humanitarian Implementation Plans