The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), does not intervene directly on the ground in humanitarian crises. Instead it distributes funding to about 200 partners, which include non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies, other international organisations as well as various specialised agencies from EU Member States
Relations between ECHO and its partners are governed by Framework Partnership Agreements. These define the roles and responsibilities in the implementation of humanitarian operations financed by the European Commission. Through ECHO funding, some 18 million people are helped each year through its partners. Humanitarian actions are monitored and assessed systematically in order to ensure efficiency, accountability and transparency.
Who are the partners?
ECHO carries out humanitarian aid according to the principles of impartiality, neutrality and on a strictly "needs-basis". It ensures that goods and services are able to reach the crisis zones fast. In 2009, ECHO allocated funds as follows: NGOs 47%, UN agencies 39% and International Organisations 14%. This diversity enables it to deal with the complex nature of the needs in different crisis areas of the world, in a comprehensive manner. ECHO has therefore developed close working relationships with its partners, both at the level of policy issues and of specific humanitarian operations.
How are the partners selected?
ECHO's funding scheme for humanitarian operations is organised on the basis of selecting the best proposals received for covering the needs of those who are most vulnerable. It evaluates the quality of its partners' proposals based on two main pillars: efficiency and accountability, of what must essentially be results-based targets.
After a rigorous selection process which gages the suitability and eligibility of a potential ECHO humanitarian aid partner, the next important step in the procedure is the Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA).
The Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA)
The Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) lays out the objectives of the Humanitarian Aid assistance financed by the Commission. It presents the procedures and rules which govern the assistance and defines the nature of the partnership. The FPA aims to ensure that the humanitarian aid 'ACTIONS' are implemented in accordance with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness (the three e's), to improve the delivery of humanitarian aid and thus promote a 'quality partnership'.
The framework for international organisations such as the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), the IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies) and the IOM (International Organisation of Migrations) is slightly different. It allows for a more adaptable working method between ECHO and an international organisation.
The Agencies of the United Nations work within yet another legal framework agreement, the EC/UN agreement, signed on 29 April 2003, known as FAFA (Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement), which establishes the relationship between the Commission (not ECHO) and these UN bodies.
How does the process of allocating funds work?
The humanitarian aid organisations interested in collaborating with ECHO on a humanitarian action must submit a sound funding proposal and follow strict guidelines for the project's evaluation and monitoring. This represents a very important part of ECHO's commitment to accountability and effectiveness. In order to guarantee the high quality of a project every partner must submit a compulsory annual assessment exercise.
The results of a potential project are considered far more important than the initial intentions. The project is subjected to rigorous evaluation as well as control mechanisms to ensure viability and to ascertain that the funds have been allocated appropriately. All proposals are judged on their technical merits, in accordance with ECHO's strategy in responding to any given emergency and on the basis of the "needs" that have been identified.
In order for any financial agreement with a partner to go ahead, a financing decision must be adopted beforehand by ECHO, in order to allocate funds to specific humanitarian issues. In summary, it defines "where the money can go" once extensive research has been carried out.
As a general rule there are three ways in which ECHO finances humanitarian actions:
-100% FINANCING : applicable to NGOs and International Organisations
-CO-FINANCING: ECHO most commonly co- finances an action together with other donors as well as the interested partner
-MULTI DONOR: a contribution (fixed amount) is made by ECHO and other donors to an international organisation's action/programme. This method only applies to International Organisations
Any humanitarian project is continuously monitored through different control mechanisms. The so-called "Fichop" for example (Fiche opérationelle) assesses the humanitarian action throughout its life cycle and serves also as a basis to evaluate the action at a later stage.
In order to ensure that the humanitarian actions are efficient and effective, regular assessments are carried out by the Commission. An assessment is carried out in two phases. The first phase is an annual assessment and is compulsory for all Humanitarian Organisations, consisting of an update of the information concerning the partners. An in-depth assessment takes place at least once every three years in a second phase as part of the consolidation of this verification.
As a result of the annual assessment, the Commission may confirm, suspend or terminate the FPA. These evaluation reports are published to ensure continued monitoring and transparency.
This profusion of tools and procedures, and the multilayered system of control mechanisms, ensures accountability, transparency and responsibility in the allocation of the Union's funds.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm