As a whole the European Union is the world's biggest donors of humanitarian aid. The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) was created in 1992. In 2004 it became the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid before integrating Civil Protection in 2010 for a better coordination and disaster response inside and outside Europe. In 2010, Kristalina Georgieva was appointed as the first dedicated Commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.
The EU's humanitarian assistance is based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Every decision ECHO takes must be in accordance with these four principles which are at the heart of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. As such, ECHO's humanitarian aid is distributed without regard for any political agendas and without exception, seeks to help those in the greatest need, irrespective of their nationality, religion, gender, ethnic origin or political affiliation.
Today ECHO has more than 300 people working in Brussels and more than 400 in 47 field offices all over the world. Immediately following a disaster they go to the crisis to carry out needs assessments, and then they monitor the implementation of the EU-funded humanitarian projects. This needs-based approach is a key characteristic of ECHO aid and how it is distributed.
In 2010 the ECHO distributed humanitarian aid worth €1,115 billion. While this figure represents less than 1percent of the European Union's total budget, it provided assistance to more than 150 million people in over 80 countries outside the European Union.
These entire ECHO funded projects share one common aim: to alleviate the suffering of the affected populations.