Why is the Commission proposing to strengthen the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and rescEU?
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is a crisis management structure that allows Member States and Participating States to strengthen their cooperation in the field of civil protection, to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. It is based on voluntary contributions of Member States, with the European Commission playing a key coordinating and co-financing role.
The need for a more flexible, faster and reactive system to respond to large-scale emergencies is one of the lessons learnt from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rapid spread of the virus exposed some limitations in the current crisis management framework. At times when Member States are hit by the same emergency simultaneously and unable to offer each other assistance, the EU is currently unable to help quickly enough to fill these critical gaps as it does not have its own assets and has to rely on voluntary support from Member States.
A reinforcement and upgrade of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism – as requested by the European Council in March 2020 – is therefore necessary to avoid situations where Member States are left alone during crises.
What is the main objective of the proposal?
The Commission’s proposes to allow the EU and its Member States to be better prepared for and able to react quickly and flexibly to crises, in particular those with a high-impact given the potential disruption to our economies and societies.
Under the Commission’s proposal, the EU will be able to;
- directly procure an adequate safety net of rescEU capacities;
- use its budget more flexibly to be able to prepare more effectively and react faster in times of exceptional needs
- dispose of the logistical capacity to provide multi-purpose air services in case of emergencies and to ensure timely transport and delivery of assistance;
These strategic capacities will be supplementary to those of the EU Member States. They should be strategically pre-positioned in such a way as to ensure the most effective geographic coverage in response to an emergency.
In this way, a sufficient number of strategic assets will be available in order to support Member and Participating States in situations of large-scale emergencies and offer an effective EU-response.
What kinds of action will be financed under the proposal?
The upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism will equip the European Union with assets and logistical infrastructure that can cater for different types of emergencies, including those with a medical emergency dimension. This would allow the EU to:
- Acquire, rent, lease and stockpile identified rescEU capacities;
- Fully finance the development and the operational cost of all rescEU capacities as a strategic European reserve in case national capacities are overwhelmed;
- Enhance the funding for national capacities deployed under the European Civil Protection Pool to increase their availability for deployment;
- Ensure timely transport and delivery of requested assistance. This also includes internationally deployable experts, technical and scientific support for all types of disasters as well as specific medical equipment and personnel such as ‘flying medical experts’, nurses and epidemiologists.
How will EU humanitarian aid be enhanced under the new MFF?
The Commission proposes €14.8 billion for humanitarian aid, of which €5 billion come from the European Union Recovery Instrument to reinforce the humanitarian aid instrument.
The increased budget reflects the growing humanitarian needs in the most vulnerable parts of the world. The Humanitarian Aid Instrument will provide needs-based delivery of EU assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural hazards or man-made crises.
A significantly enhanced Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve will reinforce EU action in response to all aspects of the health crisis, as well as other emergencies. Funds can be channelled to provide emergency support as and when needed through EU instruments such as humanitarian aid in cases where funding under dedicated programmes proves insufficient.
Why is the Commission proposing to increase humanitarian aid budget?
Humanitarian crises in the world are increasing: In 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection, a significant increase from 130 million people in 2018 (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). The needs are stemming from the conflicts, global refugee crisis, worsening natural disasters due to climate change.
The coronavirus pandemic further increases already existing humanitarian needs. It has a major health, social and economic impact on societies around the globe, in particular on the poorest countries. It is estimated that up to 265 million people worldwide could be under severe threat of hunger by the end of 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). This requires strong reinforcements to the humanitarian aid budget to meet the growing needs.
The EU adapted its humanitarian response in light of the needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the impact of the pandemic and the economic fall-out, are compounding existing needs, making it all the more important that the Union is equipped to demonstrate solidarity with the rest of the world.
Escalation of violence in Gaza
The ongoing and serious escalation of violence in and around Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel has claimed the lives of 13 Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes, including a 5-year-old child and one woman, informed Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the territory.
In a statement published on Saturday, Ms. Hastings expressed her grave concern for the situation that has left more than 100 Palestinians injured, as well as 7 Israelis.
Residential areas in both Gaza and Israel have also been hit and 31 families in Gaza are now homeless.
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation. The hostilities must stop to avoid more deaths and injuries of civilians in Gaza and Israel. The principles of international humanitarian law including those of distinction, precaution and proportionality must be respected by all parties”, she urged.
Basic services in danger
Ms. Hastings warned that fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is due to run out this Saturday and electricity has already been cut.
“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk”, she cautioned.
The Humanitarian Coordinator added that movement and access of humanitarian personnel, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel into Gaza, must not be impeded so that humanitarian needs can be met.
She also underscored that Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in accordance with international principles.
“I reiterate the United Nations Special Coordinator’s appeal on all sides for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence, to avoid destructive ramifications, particularly for civilians”, Ms. Hastings concluded.
Nuclear-free world is possible, test-ban treaty chief says
Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official said at a press conference in New York on Friday.
Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities.
“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said.
World at risk
Mr. Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear non-proliferation conference, which began this week at UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays.
Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
At the opening on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”.
“Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity,” said Mr. Floyd.
Drop in testing
The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Mr. Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world.
“We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium.”
The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone.
However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
Asked about these countries, Mr. Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives.
Mr. Floyd also reported on the activities of the organization that promotes the treaty, which he heads.
The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring.
Staff also train inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force. Furthermore, countries use CTBTO data for civilian and scientific applications, such as tsunami warning systems and other university research.
“Even without having entered into force, the CTBT is already helping to save lives in countries around the world,” said Mr. Floyd. “Even those that have not yet ratified the treaty are benefiting from this global collaboration and technological expertise.”
Horn of Africa faces most ‘catastrophic’ food insecurity in decades
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst hunger crises of the last 70 years.
More than 37 million people are facing acute hunger, with approximately seven million children under the age of five acutely malnourished in the region.
While finding food and safe water is the absolute priority, WHO said that ensuring a strong health emergency response is needed to avert preventable disease and deaths.
The UN agency is calling for $123.7 million to respond to rising health needs and prevent a food crisis from turning into a health crisis.
“The situation is already catastrophic, and we need to act now,” said Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO Assistant Director General for Emergencies Response. “We cannot continue in this underfunding crisis”.
The Horn of Africa includes Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.
“There are now four seasons where the rain didn’t come as predicted and a fifth season is estimated to also fail. Places where there is drought the problem keeps worsening and worsening,” said WHO Incident Manager Sophie Maes.
“In other places like South Sudan, there have been three years of consecutive flooding with almost 40 per cent of the country being flooded. And we are looking at something that is going to get worse in the near future.”
Over 37 million people in the region are projected to reach the third level of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification scale (IPC3) and higher in the coming months.
This means that the population is in crisis, and only marginally able to meet minimum food needs by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies.
The effects of drought are particularly severe in eastern and southern Ethiopia, eastern and northern Kenya, and southern and central Somalia.
Food insecurity in South Sudan has reached the most extreme levels since independence in 2011, with 8.3 million people comprising 75 per cent of the population facing severe food insecurity.
Cost of inaction
Acute malnutrition leads to increased migration as populations move in search of food and pasture, according to WHO.
And disruptions often result in deteriorating hygiene and sanitation as outbreaks of infectious diseases, like cholera, measles, and malaria, are already on the rise.
Moreover, weak vaccination coverage and health services with insufficient resources could see a widespread increase in the number of disease outbreaks in country and across borders.
Care for severely malnourished children with medical complications will be severely impacted and result in high child mortality rates.
Disruptions in access to health care can further increase morbidity and mortality, as emergency conditions force populations to modify their health-seeking behaviour and prioritize access to life-saving resources such as food and water.
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