Humanitarian needs are growing globally. Not only because of the impacts of climate change, but also because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seriously hit developing countries. They are in desperate need of help, and the European Commission reacted by increasing its initial annual humanitarian budget for 2021 by 60% to €1.4 billion. Caritas Czech Republic has been working with The Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO) since 2004, and was one of the first organisations to receive a prestigious certificate and thus have this partnership prolonged for another 7 years.
We have been talking to Ginés Casanova, Caritas Czech Republic MEAL Unit Manager, to find out what exactly such partnership means.
Is it possible to explain in a simple way what the partnership with ECHO means for Caritas Czech Republic and the people we help?
I believe it is. European Commission allocates a significant amount of money for humanitarian aid, and is generally one of the most biggest donors. If there is a war, an earthquake, flooding, or if any other critical situation happens, it is crucial to act immediately. The situation of the affected people evolves quickly and can become rather dramatic within a short timeframe. It is therefore important that humanitarian actors are able to provide aid in the shortest time possible. What ECHO also needs to be sure about is that any organisation they partner with can deliver speedy and high quality aid even in a complicated local setting such as war or post natural disaster.
The best way for ECHO to ensure that the aid money is used effectively and actually reaches the people that need it, it pre-selects its partners long in advance. These are generally organisations with experience in humanitarian aid and international development field, and which fulfil strict quality criteria.
We could say that ECHO chooses in advance to cooperate with organisations about which they can be sure that they will use the aid money effectively. In a way, it is an expression of trust.
Exactly. When a crisis arises, ECHO can without unnecessary delay provide aid money to the preselected organisations they trust. They can be sure it will be used speedily, effectively and fairly where needed. There is simply no time to be checking an organisation's structure, ethics, way of working etc. This is why ECHO chooses its partners way ahead.
How many such organisations has ECHO been cooperating with?
Out of the thousands of organisations operating in Europe, it's only about 150; in the Czech Republic it's only two. One of them is Caritas Czech Republic.
It does not sound like an easy thing to be able to partner with ECHO. What are the criteria that the partner organisations need to meet?
There are many. In general we could say, that the audit looks at whether the organisation is working professionally, whether it is financially stable, if it is structured well, has adopted clear and all necessary policies and guidelines. ECHO also needs to be sure that all operations of the cooperating organisation are not only effective, but also transparent and fast enough.
Another area in which ECHO looks is whether the organisation chooses its employees in a fair manner, has and is complying with safeguarding policies to prevent any abuse of children or any other vulnerable people they work with.
But this does not really happen, does it.
Safeguarding of the people we help is one of the key elements of Caritas Czech Republic work, and as I mentioned, it is also one on the requirements of partnership with ECHO. If by any chance anything like this was to happen, we need to have detailed procedures in place to deal with it swiftly and transparently. It is necessary that for example a person living in a rural area in a war zone, where we are providing aid, can easily reach out to us with a complaint, and that they will be listened to.
Caritas Czech Republic has been an ECHO partner since the year 2004. What has been achieved with the money from ECHO so far?
In the past, we have for example helped herdsmen in Mongolia to deal with the impacts of harsh winter to help them sustain their traditional livelihood. We also worked with local NGOs in Chechnya where we provided valuable experience of working in challenging situations of crisis.
I imagine that it is necessary to regularly go through quality checks to be able to continue partnership with ECHO.
Absolutely. Our current certification allows us to cooperate with ECHO in the upcoming 7 years for which the humanitarian budget was approved. We are talking about billions of Czech crowns, so this means that it will be possible to provide support to many disadvantaged people.