20th Anniversary of ECHO
28.03.2012, 10:54On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the DG for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) the other day, the European Commission invited well-known representatives from the humanitarian community, NGO's and stakeholders to honour the work of ECHO.
The welcoming speach was given by the President Jose Manuel Barroso and Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva from ECHO.
President Barroso highly valued the humanitarian work during the last two decades and truthfully thanked the numerous workers, who are risking their lives in dangerous areas of the world in the name of solidarity, humanity, transparency and impartiality.
"These people are giving vital assistance to people in need and the supportive work they do should not be taken for granted.", said President Barroso.
When ECHO was established twenty years ago, the newly body had to develop and improve knowledge through time.
How to tackle problems in precarious situations or how to hold a dialog with leading figures in conflict areas in order to be able to assure humanitarian aid at all was a process of learning by doing, said Emma Bonino, a well-known persona in the humanitarian work field.
Soon ECHO had to face its first test in the Yugoslav War. Zana Vuleta, one of the first beneficiaries of ECHO during the Yugoslav War was there to give a testimony of ECHO's help.
In 1993, she was fleeing with her family from the bombings in Sarajevo. Leaving her father behind, she and the rest of her family found shelter in a refugee camp in Croatia through ECHO. After one year, Zana and her reunited family went to Italy and were finally able to live a normal life again. She deeply thanked ECHO for the life-saving support during that time.
ECHO was set up by the EC in 1992. In 2004 it became the DG for Humanitarian Aid before integrating Civil Protection.
What started with a small staff of 40 members expanded to over 300 people working in Brussels and more than 400 in 47 field offices all over the world today.
ECHO's work strictly operates under the principle to save people's lives and not to solve political problems. It is for the simple reason to only focus on the beneficiaries and that impartiality provides them with access to the hot-spots in the world, e.g. in areas of armed conflicts.
Its task is to provide and coordinate emergency relieve funding for victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world. Furthermore it takes care for food and water supply, healthcare, education and shelter for a faster response inside and outside Europe.
The annual budget ranges over €1 billion and ECHO has over 200 partners worldwide.
In the 21th century the framework of humanitarian aid did not change much, said Kristalina Georgieva. People are still depending on basic needs and speed in employment matters as always. However, according to a growing world population are more people involved if a disaster hits.
ECHO is the EU's flagship of solidarity and a sign for the global commitment of the EU. Its important role is likely to grow in the future.
For more information, please visit the following page: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm