Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 170 - 180)

TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002

MS CONSTANZA ADINOLFI

  170. So a significant speeding up of the structure?
  (Ms Adinolfi) Exactly. What we have done—and this is something we have put in place last year and we are now testing—is to establish in 2001 a primary emergency procedure. We have used it four times—for the earthquake in Peru, for the floods in Algeria, for Belize, and for one of the multiple decisions we have taken in Afghanistan last year after 11 September. We have used this four times because it was possible to use it. We have to say we are pleased to see we have been able to respect the constraints we put on ourselves, in the sense that we have been able to take the decision in the framework of a maximum 72 hours, and we have especially been able to sign the contract with the partners and deliver the money on their account in the framework of the five days we have put ourselves. This means the procedure works when it can be applied because there is a partner responding, which is capable to comply with the conditions. We hope we will be able to use it even more this year. At the same time, what we have also put in place, and this is the mechanism we are testing, is a 24 hour system of permanence, which means we have a system by which now there is a desk and a head of unit for 24 hours, seven days, in charge of following the new emergency. If this happens, it is the starting point to put into movement the emergency crisis response through the system. This was a procedure we had not established so effectively, I would say, before, and now it is in place. There is a system which is now being tested and, I have to say, we are seeing some good results in practice.

Mr Battle

  171. Could I ask about the overall budget because last year there was a reduction in the financial decisions, and they went down from

813 million in 1999 to only

492 million in 2000, and there was that cut in the budget. I wondered, why did it happen in your view and what impact did it have?
  (Ms Adinolfi) I read the situation a little differently from the way you read it. In reality, if you look at the last five years, you cannot say there has been a cut from 1999 to 2000, there was a huge increase in 1999 because of Kosovo crisis. In reality the initial budget was less than 400 million, but we got a doubling of our budget for the Kosovo crisis through a huge use of the emergency reserve and some deployment from other budget lines. So, in reality, I would say that 1999 was quite an exceptional year, not totally exceptional because we have had other years with crises—the Great Lakes crisis, Bosnia—when we had the same kind of phenomena. The initial budget was doubled, or I would say improved quite a lot through the use of the emergency reserves and through the redeployment. If I look at the average, on average in the last five years we have had more than 560 million. If you take the budget of 2001, we have started with a budget of 470 million and we have ended the year with a budget of 543 million. So I would say there is a trend which shows a certain stability on the humanitarian budget of around 500 million, which is the amount which for the time being we feel we are capable to manage in good condition with the staff we have. As I told you last time when we saw each other, I said that I would not plead for a big increase in the budget unless I was sure I would get more resources, because I would not be in a position with the staff we have today, and on which we cannot expect a big expansion, to manage correctly and efficiently as should be the case. I would say we have some experience of this in the past—if we look at the experience of the 1999 budget when we had this huge augmentation—and I would say this put a lot of stress on the organisation, and probably we would have been better off if we had less money.

  172. If you need more staff to cope with the budget as one constraint, is not also the budget incredibly demand-led and you cannot predict the crises and pressures which will be on you?
  (Ms Adinolfi) I would say that is half true. It is true we have at least one-third of our budget which is really used for new emergencies and things happening which we cannot foresee. For the other two-thirds of the budget I would say there is the possibility to make some kind of planning, and this is the way we have been working especially for the last two, two and a half years. If you look at our strategic planning and the annual strategy we have developed especially for 2001, and now you will find the strategy for 2002, you will see we are capable at that stage to identify in which kind of protracted crisis we will be involved. These represent a large part of our budget. That does not mean we have not to organise ourselves to adapt. We know already that we need to have an intervention in DRC because there is a huge, long lasting humanitarian crisis there, and in the Global plan we have already approved for 2002 (and we were already in the implementation phase) we have targeted certain types of activity, especially the primary health sector. Now we have additional things and we would have to look, for instance, at the extent to which the eruption will not disrupt part of the operation we had planned for that part of the country; so we will have to adapt the Global plan in order to take into account what has happened. So there is a certain capability of planning and this is the way we work, but this has always to be managed with great flexibility.

  Hugh Bayley: I have just been reading your leaflet produced in October which says, "An already disastrous situation threatens to develop into the world's worst humanitarian crisis", which of course the UN and lots of other people were saying at that time. How well do you think ECHO has responded?

Chairman

  173. Sorry, but I think we ought to say for the purposes of the record that you are talking about Afghanistan.
  (Ms Adinolfi) Afghanistan has been quite an interesting experience, I have to say, last year. The leaflet was up-dated in October because it was produced before 11 September, for the visit that the Commissioner was supposed to do to Afghanistan on 11 September. The Commissioner was in London on his way to Kabul when it happened. This leaflet was prepared for that visit and after that we made an up-date, but on that part we have not changed it. It was an interesting thing to see because if you look at our file on Afghanistan on 2001, you will see in July we had arrived at the conclusion that we needed to ask for emergency funds from the emergency reserve because the situation in the country was developing so dramatically that we thought we needed additional funds to the ones already engaged in the first half of 2001. We had already put more than 20 million into Afghanistan in the first half of the year, but the drought situation was so dramatic and the situation in the country was evolving in such a dramatic way that we thought we were already in a new emergency. I would say the 11 September events have just accelerated the process and given even more argument to our request for additional money. In the Afghan crisis we have achieved a certain number of results in the way we have managed it. First of all, we have achieved the result of being capable of doing a good assessment of the needs in the field but also resisting the "CNN" effect, so not to be driven by the political context and saying we have to draw a big amount of money without knowing where it has to go. We have resisted this, and this is why we have planned this step-by-step strategy, by which we have asked for 25 million additional money but we have not engaged them in one way. We have taken different decisions after 11 September really to be near to the field and to the needs in the field. We have shared this approach and this strategy with the major partners, for instance we have discussed this with UNHCR, with UNICEF, with the World Food Programme, with the ICRC and with our major NGO partners. We have shared very much with them this approach, and they have supported it, and they have been included in this approach. If you look at the different decisions we have taken, you will see we have chosen the partners in relation to the nature of the operation we wanted to support. So in the first stage, immediately after 11 September, we especially supported the UNHCR, the ICRC, the World Food Programme, in order to support the agencies which were making some preparatory work to place drugs and food in a place where one could expect refugees to arrive. In the second stage we have taken the decision to support the ICRC immediately after the starting of the bombing, because we thought there would be major casualties linked to the bombing or the displacement of populations, so we supported ICRC which was in the country with a large organisation and which was able to respond to those needs. After that, we have started to support those agencies and NGOs to help, first of all, the arrival of food in Afghanistan and to start to prepare for the eventual return when the political situation was given the possibility of success. So this has been the strategy. We will be following it also in 2002. This is one aspect. The second aspect in which I feel we have got some good results is at the level of co-ordination. We have had from the beginning a very good exchange with Member States. This is one of the major achievements, I would say, and we will try to reproduce this for other crises. We have been able—and you have this on file—to agree with the Member States that we will be the focal point to collect the information about also the bilateral aid which was being given by Member States so we could have a global picture of who was doing what in which sector, through which channel and so on.

  174. Yes, we have seen your document. It is useful.
  (Ms Adinolfi) They are very detailed tables.

  175. I understand the information sharing role, clearing house role, which you are playing, which is very important and useful, but what I do not understand is what is the unique role that ECHO can play in the field which cannot be played by UNHCR, by the World Food Programme, by bilateral donors?
  (Ms Adinolfi) We are not in competition, we have a different role.

  176. But why have yet another organisation?
  (Ms Adinolfi) Because we are a donor. The UNHCR and the World Food Programme are implementing agencies. We are not speaking from the same point of view. We are not working directly, we are not implementing. This is why we have a different role and we have to work in co-ordination with them. We are one of the big donors in the humanitarian field, so for us it is important to see where to support those agencies or the NGOs so that our aid is effective and is given to the priority target groups. UNHCR have their own mandate, I would say, of protection and so on, but they are an implementing agency.

  177. But the programmes which you are supporting as a donor are similar to the programmes which each of the Member States are supporting.
  (Ms Adinolfi) Yes, and this is completely compatible. This is why for us it is important we achieve a good co-ordination with the Member States and with other donors. What was important for us in the case of Afghanistan, but it is true also for others, was that we were not putting all our eggs in the same basket. For us what was important from the very beginning was to make sure that if there was a huge support, for instance, from other donors to certain sectors and certain activities, and other activities were left aside, we would probably—and it is what we have done—engage more on those activities to be complementary.

  178. Which were the sectors which you think were left aside?
  (Ms Adinolfi) I do not think there has been any major sector which has been left aside. But you will know very well that there is always a big discussion between the UN agencies and the NGOs about the way the UN agencies treat the NGOs, in terms of co-ordination, co-operation and so on. We thought we could play an added value role in trying to support, including through financing, an appropriate mechanism which will make it easier for the two sides of the implementing agency—the UN family and the NGOs—to work better together. So, for instance, in Afghanistan if you look to the project we are supporting, we have recently supported the co-ordinating role of OCHA, in terms of collecting data, establishing a data base and so on. The OCHA co-ordinator had a specific role in ensuring the links between the UN and the NGOs. We have given support to that role.

  179. You have explained the relationship between your role as a donor and the role of other donors in response to a humanitarian crisis, there is obviously a long-term need for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, indeed it is what all these talks in Japan are about, and ECHO's role will be less in relation to that, I assume. How does your aid disbursement programme fit in with the other donors' long-term development programmes?
  (Ms Adinolfi) This has been a good experience up to now. From the very beginning, even if we, as ECHO, were on the first line of intervention, the Commission was intervening in Afghanistan, or had the possibility to intervene in Afghanistan, also with other instruments, not only development but also intermediary instruments like the up-rooted people budget line which is more for re-construction. What was established from the very beginning in the Commission was a task force in which we have all sat together, and have started to work on a strategic framework for the longer term to prepare an eventual reconstruction pledging conference. We have started to work together with DG RELEX and with AIDCO already from October in preparing a strategic approach, and we have from the very beginning told the others what we were planning and in which time frame we could put ourselves. We were taking into account, and will continue to take into account the other instruments planned for. There is a permanent consultation between the services on the different initiatives we are taking. There is an additional element which responds to your question on the relationship with the delegations. If we take the experience now in Afghanistan, it was clear to us that we needed to go back to Kabul as soon as possible, as soon as security permitted, as it was essential to be there and near the partners and the local population as soon as possible. We decided in November to try to re-open (because there was an office in Kabul some years ago), the office in December or at the latest in January. We have taken steps to do that. We have already ECHO people in Kabul now, with an ECHO office. At the same time, the Commission has considered the possibility to open a more general representation, as are the Member States. Now the decision has been taken and approved by the Commission to establish a larger European Union office in Kabul. Probably in a first stage a part of this office will be in Peshawar, and a part in Kabul, but later on a full delegation will be established in Kabul. ECHO'S office will be not totally integrated but will be working closely with that delegation, as it is already working closely with the staff of other Commission services sent into the field now. The head of the EU office will probably be hosted by ECHO for a time. We are the front-runners of the Commission services, we are in place, and we are hosting the other services which are coming to the field. In that way we are starting to work together also at field level. For Afghanistan, our strategy is that in any case we will be looking to the overall strategy defined at international level after the Tokyo Conference, we will not fix our priorities completely independently from this general framework.

Chairman

  180. Thank you very much for answering our questions and thank you very much for this further briefing, both the oral briefing and written briefing this afternoon. Thank you for helping us more clearly where ECHO fits into the fabric of the various organisations the European Union has in promoting international development. We are very grateful to you for answering questions, particularly like explaining to us how the ECHO budget works, which is not always entirely transparent to outsiders. Thank you very much for giving us your time.
  (Ms Adinolfi) Thank you, and if you need any other information, we are at your disposal.

  Chairman: Thank you.





 
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