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Human rights and humanitarian issues

74 - European Policy in the International Humanitarian System

Grade: B
Unity 2/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 13/20

While the Commission and member states played an essential part in funding humanitarian operations, the EU’s overall contribution was reduced by big cuts.

EU member states and the European  Commission play an essential role in supporting the global humanitarian system, accounting for roughly half of all relief spending each year through agencies such as UNHCR, the United Nations World Food Programme and UNICEF. In 2010, that system was put under huge strain primarily due to the disasters in Haiti and Pakistan (see components 57 and 58). Aid organisations raised a record $13.1 billion (€9.6 billion) in appeals during the year. Having projected humanitarian spending of just over €800 million in 2010, the European Commission ultimately disbursed nearly €1.1 billion.

Although final figures are not available for all member states, it is clear that economic pressures had an uneven effect on humanitarian spending. France, for example, cut its voluntary donations to UN programmes and the International Red Cross to  €55.1 million, a 21 percent drop on the previous year. This already followed a comparative percentage reduction in 2009.  Some smaller donors including Greece, Hungary and Ireland also made cuts. On the other hand, Finland, Germany, Portugal and Sweden did not make cuts. Poland actually increased its spending. The UK, traditionally a leading donor, probably also increased its humanitarian spending after a cut in the 2009-2010 financial year. The Netherlands marginally increased its spending in 2010, but the new government has promised to slash it by roughly 20 percent in 2011.

With a great deal of humanitarian spending going to Haiti and Pakistan, aid agencies noted that projects elsewhere – such as in Iraq – suffered shortfalls. While EU officials have laid the groundwork for reforms to Commission-funded relief and the creation of a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps, they see potential funding shortfalls as a huge threat to future crisis response: even if the Commission and certain member states maintain or raise funding levels, this will be offest by other countries’ cuts.