Friday, 19 October 2012

EU wants to spend more on preventing disasters, not just relief

BRUSSELS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - The European Union wants to spend more aid cash on helping countries prevent humanitarian disasters, rather than simply giving money for repeated relief efforts.

Only a tenth of 1 percent of global aid funding is used to help countries withstand disasters and save money on relief, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva, said at an EU development conference in Brussels.

The proportion is similar for aid provided by the European Union, the world's biggest donor.

Combining humanitarian and development efforts could help countries weather sudden shocks, European Commission officials told the EU conference.

This would include projects to resettle populations from flood plains or earthquake zones and health programmes to make people less prone to malnutrition.

Or existing health project, which the European Union supports with 3 million euros a year, is HarvestPlus - a Washington-based scheme that helps fortify staple crops with vitamins in poor countries, helping to fight malnutrition.

The 27 EU member states are collectively the world's largest source of aid, giving about 53 billion euros ($69.5 billion) a year, including 12 billion euros from the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm.

While the Commission has no direct control over individual member states' aid budgets, its policies are influential.

Although providing long-term funding for projects in states lacking good governance could mean some money goes astray, Georgieva said the potential benefits of lowering repeated disaster bailouts outweighed those risks.

"Two-thirds to three-quarters of countries that are disaster-prone are also conflict-prone, and that makes a kind of vicious circle of misery," she told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Will we be having problems with governance? Of course," she said, but added: "There is no such place where everyone is corrupt and there is no contact to build solutions up." ($1 = 0.7621 euros) (Reporting By Ethan Bilby; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Pravin Char)


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