Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 165 - 169)




  165. Thank you very much for giving us of your time this afternoon. As you know, we are a Committee of the House of Commons which monitors and scrutinises the work of the International Development Department and in that we are very conscious of the importance of ECHO. If I may, I am going to ask some of my colleagues to put some questions to you and through that process we can establish some information. Perhaps we can start with Tony Colman.

  (Ms Adinolfi) If I can just mention one point. We are distributing to you a small file in which we have tried to put the most recent documents for your information on what we have been doing over the last two years.

Tony Colman

  166. Thank you very much for seeing us again. I remember meeting you in spring of 2000 I think.
  (Ms Adinolfi) Yes, I think one week after I took up my post, so it was quite a hard time for me, I have to say. My first experience.

  167. Indeed. If you can up-date us on the future, that would be very helpful. My question to start us off is to see how ECHO works with other European institutions, primarily with DG Development, DG External Relations and EuropeAid and working at the level of delegations. As we are sitting in this Crisis Room, as it says it is called, how is it working out in terms of a real crisis, the situation in Goma? How are you working across the other DGs, how are you working with the delegations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda? How is the structure working together in that crisis?
  (Ms Adinolfi) There has been no major change in the way we worked before with other Commission services dealing with development aid and external aid compared to today. In general there is a change, but not for us, because in the Commission's RELEX reform I have retained overall responsibility for humanitarian aid, for fixing priorities and general strategies and after that implementing it through different partners. This has not changed completely the way we were working. At the same time, we have probably progressed and improved quite a lot in our relations with the other Commission services, especially from the point of view of linking relief with rehabilitation and development. I would say this probably is the major issue which we have worked out together with the other services over the last two years in order that humanitarian intervention, even if they respond to humanitarian needs and principles, is more sustainable in the long-term and, whenever possible, integrated in a more strategic and development assistance framework. How have we tried to improve that aspect? At different levels. First of all, you know that in the RELEX reform the Commission has established what we call the Quality Support Group, looking at all Country Strategy Papers before they are finalised. ECHO has put two of its heads of unit in this group in order to participate actively in the establishment of the Country Strategy Papers. It does not mean that the Country Strategy Papers determine our humanitarian intervention, but we have the possibility to inform the group about the contents of the humanitarian intervention so this can be taken into account in the larger context. Also, at the same time, we are informed and better aware from the very beginning what is the general context in which our action or initiative will eventually take place. This is the first level. There is a second level of daily contacts between the relevant services of ECHO and the correspondents in the other services, at two stages. At the stage of establishing the policy, which is now with DG Development for African countries, ACP, and RELEX for the other countries, and with AIDCO[1] at the stage of the implementation of the strategic programmes. From a certain point of view for us it has become a little more complex because instead of having two services, we have to work with three services and at two different levels, but we are finding ways to sort this out, and we are seeing some good results in this co-operation. At the same time the fact that we have been part of the Quality Support Group and that we have developed in a more steady way contacts with the different services, has helped those services to understand better the humanitarian mission, the humanitarian mandate. Colleagues have achieved a better respect for our mandate, they understand better what are our constraints and the limitations we have to put at some stages on political intervention and decisions to intervene or not to intervene. At the same time they have also seen that we try to help in order to achieve a better consistency in the sector in which we intervene, in the share of the competences. We have had definitely a very good experience in Kosovo, where we worked at the beginning with the Task Force and afterwards with the Agency for Reconstruction, where over the last two or three years we have established a consistent strategy, and we have been able to plan progressively our disengagement from Kosovo, making sure there is a good handover of a certain number of sectors to longer-term projects. We are developing this kind of approach extensively. We are developing these especially by a better targeting of our annual strategy, where we announce very clearly from the beginning of the year what will be the major crises in which we will intervene, but also we announce when we think we will withdraw from a crisis. For instance, in the strategy for 2002 we have already announced that in one or two crises in which we have been engaged previously we are definitely planning a closing down and a phasing out next year.

  168. Can I take you back to the eruption of the volcano in Goma?
  (Ms Adinolfi) In the first hours we had to take care of our personnel who were there, together with the population, so we had as a first measure to evacuate our people. This was a good example of co-operation between commission services: the delegation is in the capital, but in Goma ECHO has an office because we are working in that part of the country so we had staff there, and there is a technical assistant of the delegation who works in the agricultural field who was also in Goma at that time. So the personnel of the delegation evacuated together with ECHO people. The team went to Rwanda and the first thing they did was to start to work with other agencies, especially UN agencies, to see what kind of first assessment they could do and what kind of measures they could foresee.

  169. With the delegation in Kigali, I assume?
  (Ms Adinolfi) The links were made directly in the field but also by Brussels. The responsible unit, the desk officer, and the head of the unit, were in permanent contact with the two heads of the delegation—the DRC and the Rwandan delegation—so they were immediately aware of the location where our people were, the kind of contact, the fact we were deploying three other experts from other offices in Africa, a water sanitation expert and others, in order to support the team already there. We also put at the disposal of the UN team one of the ECHO flights from Nairobi. So this happened in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. Having established this small team in place, already starting to work together with the other agencies and with local authorities—the disaster happened on Thursday—we were able on the Friday night, to see that there would be a need for a basic package for the displaced people, for the refugees. We thought also we needed to discuss a little bit further with the partners to find out who was able to deliver immediately in the field, because with the problem of access, with the airport being out of operation, there was a logistic problem to deliver help. This is why we decided not to use one of the new instruments we had at our disposal in the case of these emergencies, which is a new decision procedure which gives the possibility to take in the first three days of a crisis a decision up to 3 million. We decided it was not possible because of the lack of a respondent, I would say, in that framework from the partners. So we continued to work with them and in reality already on the Sunday afternoon the team working here in Brussels, together with the team in the field, and were able to call me at home and tell me they were in a position to present a document for final decision on Monday for internal procedures and the signature of the Commissioner. In fact I have just checked, and the file is on the table of the Commissioner for signature, so the formal decision will be taken this evening, but we were able to announce yesterday a package of 5 million, which will be implemented immediately now.

1   AIDCO is the French term for the EuropeAid Co-operation Office and is the term which tends to be used by the Commission to refer to this Office. Back

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