Recent bloody events in Ukraine have shown that people who are struggling for freedom and democracy still consider Europe as an emblem of these values
Yet, as the European elections are looming, the temptation to follow the "every man for himself" principle becomes a priority, and international European solidarity is in danger.
For many years Europe has been the leading donor worldwide for humanitarian action through its office ECHO. Thanks to the taxes from its citizens, it is committed and continues to engage with people at risk throughout the world. Since 1992, it has helped millions of survivors of civil wars or natural disasters, accompanied distressed populations to improve their living conditions, fought food insecurity and disease or supported education.
The accounting rule of rigor and the turning in of states on their internal problems caused a significant decrease in funds dedicated to ECHO during the negotiation of the last budget. These funds mean a lot to the beneficiaries but are only a featherweight in the EU budget (0.56 %).
Europe is our heritage, the one built after two world wars by our predecessors, guided by the "never again" principle and hoping to infuse the thought of younger generation with the will to engage with the poor.
Today, European youth in search of meaning need involvement and symbols to embrace the concept of Europe. But debates mainly focus on economic issues, and the image of the European Union resembles a little more each day a slow economic machine with administrative overloads.
The 190 NGOs, which have signed the framework agreement with ECHO and are developing worldwide humanitarian operations financed by the European Union, are currently mobilizing to urge their respective governments to intervene to make these actions sustainable, so that Europe maintains its leadership in solidarity.
The Ukrainian people have shown us the way, and it’s up to us, as European citizens, to operate all the levers at our disposal for our union to meet their expectations.
TGH in the Philippines
Everyone remembers the terrible images of Typhoon Yolanda, one of the most violent ever recorded which swept the Philippines in early November 2013. The tragedy that caused the death of thousands of people moved the world, while information concerning totally inaccessible areas filtered through in dribs and drabs.
A few months later, the harsh reality of media forgot about this part of the world. Yet the needs remain huge, and though most major NGOs on the ground are carrying out significant actions, some communities remain forgotten. This is the case of Sulangan Barangay, an isolated village of only 5, 000 souls.
« It was our duty to go there. Fifteen days after the typhoon, we conducted a field evaluation, thinking to ourselves that emergency response would come from NGOs of larger size than TGH. From the start, our idea was the “post- typhoon”, or how to provide quick assistance to help people recover economically after the disaster », says Anne Barthes, Deputy Desk Officer.
Until then, in the small village of Sulangan, people lived almost exclusively on fishing. Everything has been destroyed, especially the boats. Only sixty out of 630 survived this unprecedented natural disaster that nobody really expected...
« We targeted a zone where very few humanitarian actors were present, but also an area in which we have developed real expertise. Enhance recovery of the fishing sector, we know that... Small communities in rural areas, we know that… This is why we are trusted by some donors and beneficiaries who are really involved in the program that we are setting-up », Anne says.
It is a short-term mission, which should end late August 2014, with a budget of €250, 000 granted by the Fondation de France and the FACECO (Local Authorities External Actions Fund)1. The main goal is to provide fishermen in the area with a working tool.
« The idea is either to restore the boats that can be restored, or to build new ones », says Thomas Boudant, Head of Mission. In total, about 80 traditional fishing boats will be built locally, partly thanks to the recruitment of local marine carpenters.
« The other aspect of the mission is agricultural recovery, which involves the distribution of vegetable seeds and livestock », said Thomas, who adds « when faced with so many needs, our main criterion is vulnerability. ».
For several weeks, Thomas has conducted an extensive survey in Sulangan to meet people, in order to determine specific and general needs.
Shipbuilding - the main area of support offered by TGH on the mission – carries with it constraints that the NGO is willing to bear.
« Before the tragedy, the region was facing a serious overfishing problem, with the result we can imagine on local environment. Today, the authorities, with whom we work closely, ask us to work in a responsible way and prioritize the reconstruction of the smallest boats », Anne explains.
For his part, Thomas has to meet other requirements, including legal ones: « There are quite strict environmental laws here that make wood supply extremely difficult. We will probably have to resort to importing wood from sustainably managed forests in order not to encourage deforestation which is a major problem in the Philippines and in this region of the world », explains the Head of Mission.
A few months after the beginning of the mission, Thomas and Anne seem confident, and both hope to see it develop: « In one month, we plan to carry out assessments in the area, especially in the most affected islands, where very few humanitarian actors are present (...). We will possibly move towards water-sanitation operations, another of TGH’s area of expertise. Anyhow, we are seriously considering settling in the region on a more sustainable basis... »
1 The Local Authorities External Actions Fund is an assistance fund managed by the Crisis Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and dedicated to local authorities wishing to bring emergency relief to victims of humanitarian crisis abroad.
Thomas, head of mission in the Philippines for TGH
« Unquestionably, it’s quite a change », ssays Thomas, newly arrived in the Philippines after a long mission in the Central African Republic, where he experienced some of the worst moments of the crisis. After the pressure, looting and violence inherent in missions such as the one he has just left, Thomas discovered another world when he arrived early February in the village of Sulangan where he is in charge of the mission opened by TGH.
Another country, another crisis, « without hate this time », says one of his colleagues, and that changes everything: « This is the first time that these people are facing such a serious crisis. But it is a natural disaster, nothing to do with what I have experienced previously », says Thomas, who appreciates more than ever being able to work « serenely ».
« Here I do not have to permanently take into account the possibility of having my car stolen or our premises looted. Our house is not guarded, and we received a very warm welcome from the population as well as from local authorities with whom we work closely. It's just an ideal context where we can really focus on operational work without worrying too much about security issues », said the Head of Mission, one of the youngest of TGH.
Passing from one world to another; this is the reality for most humanitarian workers, who often move from a short-term mission to another according to the needs and skills. Therefore, as he is landing in a country so different from the previous one, Thomas shows how pleased he is to be able to work so easily with the local population, although the task that brought him here is far from easy.
Meeting with the neighbourhood leaders (porok leader) to discuss the project
« We promote transparency, and both the villagers and the authorities know it. Recently we have conducted a public meeting outside, in which we explained our intentions, our methods. It is much more complex ».
In this village located at a four hours’ drive from Tacloban, which images have been shown around the world, the time for reconstruction has come, especially economic reconstruction for fishermen who have lost everything.
« Expectations are huge. Until now a big part of our job was to go door to door to meet people in order to understand the real needs. As many of them have very individual needs, we have no choice but to carry-out personalized surveys ».
Thomas’ mission should end in August, but at TGH everyone knows that in many cases, once you arrive somewhere you can stay quite a while.
In the Central African Republic, where he had joined the mission as a trainee in 2011, Thomas finally stayed until December 2013, occupying a position of project manager: « a very special experience, especially as I had no point of comparison ». And if he does not regret his experience in the Central African Republic, he still remembers having repeatedly wished « it would stop » in order to relax a little away from this difficult operational environment. Now in the Philippines, Thomas already considers staying extra time: « We do not need to look far to measure the extent of the things that need to be done... »
The programme financed by UNHCR and aiming to provide essential humanitarian assistance to Sahrawi refugees settled in the camps located in the South of Tindouf has been renewed in 2014. It allows the daily management of a mechanical workshop for the operating and maintenance of a fleet of vehicles, ambulances and trucks used for: the distribution of humanitarian aid (food and non-food products, drinking water, electricity); the improvement of hygiene conditions in the camps through the distribution of bleach and Marseille soap to hospitals, clinics and schools, as well as hygiene kits to 38,450 Sahrawi women. It also includes support to daily care centers for disabled children and homecare services provided through a network of social workers, as well as the improvement of healthcare through material support to medical infrastructure. Finally, TGH manages two UNHCR bases in Rabouni and Dakhla, used as work places for humanitarian actors, UN agencies and NGOs permanently present in the camps.
From May 2013 until end April 2014, TGH will be implementing actions supporting people with disabilities in Sahrawi camps, thanks to funding from DG ECHO1 (supply of specific paramedical equipment and capacity building of the social workers who support these people and their families daily). The purchase of equipment just ended and distributions are going to start. Training and methodological assistance for social workers will last until the end of the programme.
DG ECHO has just accepted to finance a new action that will begin in May 2014 and that aims to complement support actions for disabled people (continued capacity building of professionals managing disability in the camps). This project also includes improved quality of maintenance and repair of the vehicles that ensure humanitarian aid logistics in the camps (construction of a new maintenance workshop and needs assessment in terms of specific equipment and of strengthening of the staff’s technical and organizational skills).
1 Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission
The second programme, started in September 2013 and financed by France, aiming to improve food security in 12 new villages of remote areas of Chin State (in the western part of the country), is still running. The actions of this programme focus on immediate needs and aim to secure food access for the most vulnerable people and increase the production capacities of farmers in the area.
The impact of these initial emergency actions will be sustained thanks to AFD (French Development Agency) funding. This new development programme, started in January 2014, aims to lay the foundations for sustainable and profitable management of villages and thus to sustainably improve the living conditions of rural populations in this particularly remote area. The first studies to identify more precisely the prospects for agricultural and economic development in the area are underway. AFD's financial contribution amounts to only 50% of the total amount of the programme, and TGH is currently seeking technical and financial partnerships to complete the financing plan.
Besides, TGH has just submitted two brief notes to the European Union. One note aims at revitalizing the partnership between TGH and ECDC (a Burmese association providing assistance to children with disabilities). This project aims to strengthen ECDC’s technical skills, particularly in terms of community-based rehabilitation in peri-urban and rural areas.
The other brief note is about an action in favour of vulnerable households in poor districts of Yangon, living from informal economy. It aims to improve the employability and living conditions of these households through: the development of professional training (including in the hotel industry); support to the implementation of income-generating activities; the development of social services and the training of government and civil society actors.
TGH and the Pool Department Council have just signed a partnership agreement for the implementation of a support programme for the boosting of cattle breeding in this department located in the South of the country, close to Brazzaville. This four-year period action funded by the European Union (EuropeAid), aims to improve farmers’ access to means of production and breeding practices and to facilitate the sale of local products. It also includes: the distribution of cattle, sheep or goats to 310 farmers; training in farming techniques and farm management; the establishment of three livestock-related input shops and the construction of two slaughterhouses at the entrances to Brazzaville. TGH also aims to improve the Council’s capacity to supervise works, as it is the local authority in charge of the department. This new programme strengthens TGH’s position as one of the main international actors in the agricultural development sector, which is one of the major focuses of the necessary economic diversification in this oil-producing country with largely untapped agricultural potential. TGH’s positioning as a non-signatory partner also allows the Department Council direct access to international funding, while benefiting from the NGO’s support in its implementation.
DIn the water and sanitation sector, TGH has just entered the second and last phase of the rehabilitation programme of the water supply network in the city of Sohung (funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). The evaluation of infrastructure construction and awareness-raising activities on good hygiene practices are also planned during that period. TGH is currently in talks with Oxfam Hong-Kong to obtain financial support for this programme in order to extend the water and sanitation infrastructure network to district 5 in the city of Sohung.
In the food security sector, the programmes supporting fish farms, dairy farms or agricultural farms based on European (EuropeAid) and French (AAP) funding ended late 2013. The team is currently working to identify new projects pending the mobilization of new funds from traditional donors in this sector.
In January 2014, TGH started a programme financed by the European Union on the theme ‘non-State actors’, which aims to improve the living conditions of the elderly in North Korea through capacity building of the Korean Federation for the Care of the Aged People (KFCA). This project will establish a direct dialogue with a non-State local organization that aims to intervene in discussions and decision-making mechanisms related to the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable people. The grant issued by the Inter-ministerial Food Aid Committee will provide adequate food aid to the elderly and increase nursing homes’ food production capacity. KFCA is also the operational partner for the implementation of this action.
Thanks to the funding from the money of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union in 2012 - European Initiative "Children of Peace" - TGH has started a programme of educational and psychosocial support to Syrian refugee children living on the outskirts of Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. These funds, granted by the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Commission (ECHO), allowed the opening of a free educational space for Syrian refugee children on January 19, 2014. To date, 200 children aged 6 to 11 years are enrolled, attend classes in Arabic, Kurdish, mathematics and science, and have access to daily recreational activities.
The European Commissioner Mrs. Georgiva came to visit the programme in March 2014.
In the agricultural irrigation sector, the support programme to local authorities in Khammouane Province funded by the Rhône-Alpes Region (second part of the programme aiming to strengthen the technical and analytical skills of the PAFO/DAFO2 started many years ago) enters its second phase. TGH has just signed an agreement to implement this programme with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the relevant Ministry for that programme. TGH is currently finalizing the selection of the company which will be responsible for managing the rehabilitation of the dam aiming to improve the whole irrigation in the area. The Rhône-Alpes Region granted funds allowing the starting of a programme aiming to improve access conditions to water and sanitation in Bualapha District (one of the most isolated and poorest districts of Khammouane Province). Possibilities to obtain further funding are currently being explored (especially with the Agence de l'Eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse) in order to balance the estimated budget for this 30-month programme.
2PAFO/DAFO: Province/District Agriculture and Forestry Office.
Central African Republic
The persistence of a chaotic situation nearly one year after the coup caused international pressure that led President Michel Djotodia to resign. On January 20th of this year, the National Transitional Council elected Catherine Samba-Panza, previously Mayor of the capital city (Bangui), and a new government was formed.
These changes at the head of the state have been welcomed by the population and the warring factions, but they have had no obvious impact on the security situation. Anti-Balakas, likely to count several tens of thousands of people by now, occupy in Bangui and across the west of the country the land abandoned by former Selekas who moved northwards. Despite the more combative attitude of the international forces, who now consider anti-Balakas to be "the main enemies of peace", some of them continue to hunt down and kill Muslims in Bangui and in the west of the country. The rising tide of sectarian tension, continued abuses against Muslims and the fleeing of many of them abroad or to the North are probably the most serious and most disturbing aspects considering the country's future
The humanitarian situation, already worrying in 2012, has been significantly exacerbated by successive episodes and the duration of the current crisis. The UN estimated that by end of March, the country counted over 600,000 displaced people, including about 175,000 in Bangui, and that 2.5 million people (almost half of the population) still needed assistance to cover basic needs.
TGH is working normally in several parts of the country, despite the volatile security environment requiring constant vigilance, and helps meet the humanitarian needs of the population affected by the conflict. Since last February, with the support of the UN Common Humanitarian Fund and the French government, TGH’s new interventions include the chlorination and establishment of 30 traditional wells in Bambari, a city of 45,000 inhabitants located in the center of the country. At the same time, the organization also works on the restoration of the city drinking water supply network, completely devastated at the beginning of the conflict. In the north-east of the country, one of the areas most affected by food insecurity, preparations are underway to support with seeds and tools over 9,000 farm households for the season 2014 starting in April, thanks to funding from the French government.
Far from seeing an improvement in the living conditions of populations, the Darfur region is experiencing a rising tide of conflict. They no longer oppose "African" and "Arab" tribes, as it was the case in the beginning, but various armed groups, sometimes even former allies. Although these conflicts are still limited to specific regions, they tend to affect more and more areas in each of the five states of Darfur. They generate massive displacement of populations (more than 400,000 people in 2013), and parties involved are unable to find a way out of the conflict. Darfur is more and more looking like a sort of sanctuary for militias who recognize neither the authority of the state that has hired them for support, nor the authority of the traditional chiefs of the tribes they belong to. These groups, becoming better armed thanks to the looting they commit indiscriminately on civilians, humanitarian actors or authorities, remove the prospect of a lasting solution to the crisis, and really threaten to destabilize neighbouring countries: the Central African crisis is a sad but significant example.
The programme aiming to improve access conditions to drinking water and health facilities in Oecusse District, based on European (EuropeAid) and French (AFD) funding, continues. It enters its final year of implementation and will finalize the building of water and sanitation infrastructure through the capacity building of local actors involved in this area. A particularly intense rainy season has hindered access to different intervention areas, and a three-month extension is currently under consideration.
The programme on capacity building of non-State local actors and local NGOs to help them respond properly to the needs of women and children who are victims of violence, started last October. The team is currently holding discussions with partners (a Timorese NGO promoting women’s rights) to prepare the launching of the activities of this programme funded by EuropeAid for a total duration of 36 months. TGH is in search for donors willing to provide the requested co-funding.