The Union's operations in the field of humanitarian aid are conducted within the framework of the principles and objectives of the external action of the Union. Such operations are intended to provide ad hoc assistance and relief and protection for people in third countries who are victims of natural or man-made disasters, in order to meet the humanitarian needs resulting from these different situations. The Union's measures and those of the Member States complement and reinforce each other. The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure [see section 4.3], establish the measures defining the framework within which the Union's humanitarian aid operations is implemented (Article 214 TFEU).
The European Union considers food aid, first and foremost, as a structural instrument of long-term development. EU policy on food security has evolved towards supporting broad-based food security strategies at national, regional and global level, limiting the use of food aid to humanitarian situations and food crises and avoiding disruptive effects on local production and markets. It takes into account the specific situation of countries that are structurally fragile and highly dependent on support for food security, in order to avoid a steep reduction of EU assistance to these countries.
The objective of the thematic programme on food security of the Regulation establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation is to improve food security in favour of the poorest and most vulnerable people and contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty and hunger [see section 24.4], through a set of actions which ensure overall coherence, complementarity and continuity of EU interventions, including in the area of the transition from relief to development [Regulation 1905/2006, last amended by Regulation 1341/2011]. To achieve this objective the programme includes activities such as:
- contributing to the provision of international public goods, in particular pro-poor demand driven research and technological innovation, as well as capacity development, scientific and technical cooperation and twinning;
- supporting global, continental and regional programmes which notably: support food security in specific fields such as agriculture, or promote, strengthen and complement national food security and poverty reduction strategies in the short, medium and longer-term;
- addressing food insecurity in exceptional situations of transition and State fragility;
- developing innovative food security policies, strategies and approaches
Another Regulation lays down the objectives of humanitarian aid and the procedures governing aid and operations in this context [Regulation 1257/96]. The EU's humanitarian aid comprises assistance, relief and protection operations to help people in third countries, particularly the most vulnerable among them, and as a priority those in developing countries, victims of natural disasters, man-made crises, such as wars and outbreaks of fighting, or exceptional situations or circumstances comparable to natural or man-made disasters. The kinds of operation covered are specific projects or broader-based plans designed to bring in relief, help with short-term repair and rebuilding work, facilitate the arrival of aid, prevent crises from worsening and help with the repatriation and resettlement of refugees back home. Also included among the eligible operations are disaster-preparedness and activities to protect the victims of conflict.
The framework Regulation gives the Commission overall control of all the aid mobilisation and delivery operations. Commission control ends however when the aid is in the hands of the beneficiary country. Furthermore, the successful tenderer is responsible for the aid until its delivery to the location stipulated in the agreement concluded with the beneficiary countries. Finally, the Regulation stipulates that aid is to be monitored by professionals appointed by the Commission to ensure that the operation is correctly followed through. The European Union focuses its attention on food strategies where food security tops the list of priorities. The EU participates actively in the Food Aid Convention [Convention and Decision 1999/576 and Decision 2006/906].
The European Office for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), run by the Commission, has the role of enhancing the Union's presence on the ground, of grouping together all its emergency humanitarian actions and improving coordination with the Member States, other donors, NGOs and specialised international agencies. ECHO is wholly responsible for administering humanitarian and emergency food aid, and disaster preparedness. At present, the humanitarian aid of the EU exceeds 1 billion euros a year and its scope has been broadened to cover the violent ethnic conflicts in Africa, the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the aftermath of the fratricidal wars in former Yugoslavia. In fact, more than 95% of ECHO's activities cover man-made disasters.
The bulk of food aid is allocated by the Commission under the "normal procedure" whereby each allocation of aid is submitted for the prior opinion of the Member States. EU food aid is granted either directly to the governments of beneficiary countries, which distribute the produce free of charge or put it up for sale on the local market, or indirectly through the intermediary of inter-governmental international organisations (UNHCR, WFP, ICRC, LICROSS) or of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which re-distribute it to refugees and to the most vulnerable categories in the framework of special nutritional programmes. Aid is granted as a priority to low-income countries with a food supply shortfall. Part of food aid is set aside for emergency action. The EU endeavours to give direct financial and institutional support to partners other than the national authorities (local authorities, NGOs, trade and vocational bodies and unions), with the aim of strengthening local management capabilities and initiative.
The three major communicable diseases, namely HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria cause the deaths of more than five and a half million people each year, their greatest impact being on morbidity and life expectancy in developing countries. Moreover, these diseases wipe out years of development efforts and achievements and constitute a serious concern in the long run because of their destabilising effects on society. Under the Programme on aid to fight poverty diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) in developing countries, the EU provides financial assistance and appropriate expertise to actors in development in order to improve access to health for all and to promote equitable economic growth, within the overall objective of reducing poverty with a view to its eventual eradication [Regulation 1905/2006, last amended by Regulation 1341/2011]. In the allocation of such funding and expertise, priority is given to: (a) the poorest and least developed countries and the most disadvantaged sections of the population within developing countries; and (b) action that complements and reinforces both the policies and capacities of developing countries and the assistance provided through other instruments of development cooperation. The EU contributes to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria [Decision 36/2002] and participates in a research and development programme aimed at developing new clinical interventions to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis through a long-term partnership between Europe and developing countries, undertaken by several Member States [Decision 1209/2003].
In the framework of North-South cooperation, the European Union participates in fighting drug abuse. Its action focuses mainly on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation and on the provision of alternatives to drug-growing in the developing countries, notably the ACP countries. The cooperation agreements between the EU and the countries of Asia and Latin America also contain clauses on the fight against drugs [see sections 25.6 and 25.8]. The EU is a member of the International Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, concluded in Vienna on December 20, 1988 [Decision 90/611], and is a major contributor to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) plays a catalysing and coordinating role in the action of the Member States at international level.