Sumario: April 16, 2002: International humanitarian law is being flouted, says Poul Nielson (Brussels)
Mr. Poul Nielson, European Commissioner in charge of Development and Humanitarian Aid, today delivered a sharp rebuke to countries, which "ignore the basic principles of humanitarian law". Speaking at the launch of the annual review of the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) for 2001, Mr Nielson pointed out that "all States are obliged to respect the Geneva Conventions." And referring specifically to the situation in the Palestinian Territories, he said that, "denying access
to those who desperately need help is wholly unacceptable." The Commissioner also cited problems facing humanitarian agencies in Chechnya, saying that a worrying trend was emerging. "International humanitarian law is being respected less and less or is being interpreted in a biased way. To ignore the inalienable rights of individuals to assistance is an assault on fundamental human values and a step backwards for humanity."
In launching "ECHO 2001", Mr. Nielson highlighted the leading role of the European Union in assisting victims of humanitarian crises across the world. He noted that half of the emergency relief aid dispatched to the world's crisis zones is paid for by the European taxpayer. ECHO is responsible for about 50% of this total with Member States directly allocating the remainder through their own aid programmes. An estimated 15-20 million people had benefited directly as a result of ECHO-funded operations.
Speaking in Brussels, Commissioner Nielson gave an overview of the Humanitarian Aid Office's work during 2001, revealing that it had spent almost €544 million on aid programmes in over 60 countries during the year. This was an increase of more than €50 million on 2000, with extra resources allocated to cover additional needs in Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Middle East. He also described ECHO's ongoing work in supporting vulnerable populations affected by long-running conflicts and sudden disasters. In addition to adopting a series of 'global plans' for countries and regions in crisis, ECHO has intervened recently to support victims of the Goma volcanic eruption, the Afghan earthquake and the escalating violence in the Palestinian Territories.
The web address for the annual review is:
The general address for the ECHO website is: