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EU Response to Tsunami

Summary: EU Response to Tsunami (19 December 2005: Brussels)

A year after the Asian Tsunami the EU can record a rapid and coherent response, both in humanitarian and reconstruction aid, to the disaster, and a substantial contribution made by the EU to support the resolution of long-standing conflicts in some of the affected countries. The EU remains fully aware of the dire conditions in which many people are still living, and will continue to work to restore communities and livelihoods. Details of the EU response to the Tsunami are set out in a Progress Report ( ).

At the Jakarta Donors’ Conference of January 2005, Commission and EU Member States together pledged more than €2 billion for tsunami affected countries distributed as follows:

The European Commission’s response

Humanitarian: European Commission (EC) humanitarian aid was on the ground in Asia the same day the tsunami hit. A total of €123 million has now been committed, which is the entire pledge announced by the EC at the Jakarta Donors’ Conference.

Humanitarian aid operations funded by the European Commission have been implemented by 7 UN organisations, 3 International Organisations (International Federation of the Red Cross, International Office for Migration and THW, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief) and 35 NGOs. Some key achievements so far include:Reconstruction: Nearly half of the EC pledge of €350 million has been committed and the total pledge is expected to be delivered in 2006 as foreseen. Around €75 million has been disbursed. The longer-term reconstruction phase is now underway in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, with regional programmes also benefiting India and Thailand. Programmes are focusing not only on regenerating communities and rebuilding infrastructure, but also on encouraging democratisation and improving governance, gender and environmental issues.

To ensure efficient delivery of reconstruction aid, human resources were bolstered both at Headquarters and in the field. The EC representation in Sri Lanka has been upgraded to a fully-fledged Delegation to cover both Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The EC Delegation in Jakarta has been reinforced through a ‘Europe House’ in Aceh to ensure a good, on-the-spot co-ordination of EU assistance.

Conflict Affected Areas

In those tsunami regions also affected by long-standing conflicts, the EU has played a significant role in addressing political factors hampering reconstruction efforts. In particular in Aceh, the EU has made a significant contribution to achieving a peace settlement.

In Aceh, the Commission’s Rapid Reaction Mechanism (RRM) helped finance the mediation activities which led to the signing of a peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Government of Indonesia. A comprehensive range of EU measures (EU Aceh Monitoring Mission, short and long term EC assistance programmes, including support for the reintegration of GAM combatants) aims at ensuring the sustainability of the peace process. Just last week, the Commission announced an additional €17 million to support this goal.

In Sri Lanka, despite the deteriorating political situation, the Commission has intensified its efforts to support Norway’s facilitation effort. The Commission supported efforts to set up a joint structure for the Government, the LTTE and representatives of the Muslim community to agree on priorities for reconstruction in the North and East of the country. An EU Electoral Observation Mission (the fourth to Sri Lanka in five years) was also deployed, as a further contribution to the peace process and to democratisation in Sri Lanka.

Disaster Preparedness

In line with the Commission’s Communication of April 2005 on ‘Improving Disaster and Crisis Response in Third Countries’1, the Commission is helping to ensure improved reaction and coordination on future crisis and disasters. Two Commission Liaison Officers have been appointed and have started working with the recently established CivMil cells in the Council and will provide expertise in humanitarian aid, disaster response and reconstruction assistance.

Another Commission Communication on ‘Improving the Community Civil Protection Mechanism2 also issued in April 2005, provides a framework for a more robust approach to providing civil protection assistance at a European level. This Communication suggests a more proactive role for the Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), and ensures the timely provision of transport for assistance, the provision of logistical equipment and support to on-site intervention teams. The Commission is currently preparing a proposal to amend the existing Community Mechanism for Civil Protection along these lines. In parallel, a proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a “Rapid Response and Preparedness Mechanism” and aimed at establishing a single framework to finance civil protection actions is being discussed.

Moreover, a new monitoring and alert tool has also been established on a test basis by the MIC and disseminated to civil protection authorities in 30 countries involved in civil protection activities with the Commission.

Earth Observation Tools: Supporting Relief Operations

Effective disaster preparedness and response measures are literally a matter of life and death for tens of thousands of victims. To facilitate this, Directorate General Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) is often called upon to deploy state of the art earth observation tools. Its experts react swiftly to mobilise high-resolution satellite and information technologies to provide relief services on the ground with up-to-date disaster maps. These help indicate, for example, the existence of viable transport routes and damaged zones. This greatly benefits emergency rescue, humanitarian relief and reconstruction operations.

A Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) is being developed by the Commission in collaboration with the UN that will provide early warning and relief coordination in future disasters. This mechanism can send out an alert to emergency services by SMS and email within 30 minutes. Developed by DG JRC in cooperation with DG ECHO (humanitarian aid) and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the GDACS triggers an immediate response. DG JRC produces maps and impact assessments to support DG Humanitarian Aid, DG RELEX, the EU’s civil protection mechanism, and European and international aid agencies.

Country by country breakdown


Humanitarian aid: €39.95 million has been contracted so far to fund a number of activities including an epidemic early warning system, health services, tracing and reunification of separated children and families, the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation, and telecommunications. In addition to improving the living condition of people in temporary accommodation, the humanitarian assistance has provided for the restart of fishing and agriculture activities.

Reconstruction: The EU (EC plus Member States) is the biggest donor to the Multi Donor Trust Fund for Reconstruction in Indonesia (85% of total pledges). Of the €200 million the Commission has earmarked for this MDTF, €82 million have been committed and €40.8 million disbursed. Currently the fund is supporting a land titling project to identify ownership, with a target of mapping 50,000 land plots by the end of the year; piloting housing reconstruction projects with a target before the end of the year of 400 houses reconstructed, 45 rebuilt; preparing a community development project to support restoration of community infrastructure for 3000 villages; and piloting a development project to address urban poverty. The MDTF will therefore make an important contribution in the crucial areas of housing, waste management, and other infrastructure.

Outside the MTDF, the Commission has provided a support facility to foster dialogue on the role of civil society in the post-tsunami reconstruction; provided a €200,000 unique technical satellite imagery facility to the Indonesian national topographic institute and its local branch in Aceh to facilitate planning and reconstruction; launched a €3 million “Aceh Local Governance Action Programme” which addresses a key constraint in the reconstruction process overall: the lack of administrative skills and low administrative capacity at local level.

Sri Lanka

Humanitarian aid: €31.22 million has been contracted to fund provision of food, clean water and sanitation, temporary shelter, health services and the restoration of livelihoods for fishermen, farmers and others.

Reconstruction: €95 million (2005-06) have been allocated to Sri Lanka in order to regenerate communities, restart livelihoods and repair economic infrastructure. Of this €39.5 million has been committed for the reconstruction of the key Matara Batticaloa coastal road, and €5.5 million to revitalise livelihoods and communities in the North and East. Through the Rapid Reaction Mechanism, €2 million is already supporting restoration of livelihoods in the North and East and €2.4 million is producing detailed satellite imagery to identify ownership of property.

A further €50 million is held up due to the political gridlock on the “Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure” (P-TOMS), where the Government, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and the Muslim community were to agree jointly on reconstruction priorities for the North and East of the country. This gridlock has impeded long-term reconstruction work in the North and East of Sri Lanka. It is hoped that a solution will be found following the Presidential elections that took place on 17 November.


Humanitarian aid: €2.73 million has been used to install water tanks in damaged schools, repair sewage systems, support facilities in damaged hospitals, repair houses and restart activity in the fishing and agricultural sectors.

Reconstruction: €900,000 has already been contributed for rehabilitation under the RRM. By the end of the year, €16 million will have been allocated, mostly to support the Government’s efforts at developing “safe islands” better protected from natural disasters.


Humanitarian aid: €9.63 million has funded the reconstruction of small boats, provision of fishing gear, safe water, tools and construction of material for shelter support in fishing.


Humanitarian aid and reconstruction: the European Commission immediately allocated €500,000 in humanitarian aid to help villagers resume fishing activities and rebuild their livelihoods. In addition, €240,000 funds were directed towards post-tsunami reconstruction, leading to the establishment of the Andaman Forum, which helps assess the needs of communities and speed up aid delivery

Asia Regional Support

As part of its €15 million post-tsunami facility, the European Commission’s Asia Pro Eco programme is providing grants in all areas of Asia hit by the tsunami for projects to help tackle major issues linked with environment protection.

African tsunami response

Immediate needs have been covered by the rapid and flexible use of existing humanitarian programmes in Somalia with €9 million made available for relief operations.

Reconstruction: €2 million has been allocated for water and sanitation programmes with €1.2 million for health and livelihood reconstruction. €0.7 million has been released for rehabilitation in the Seychelles to help with reconstruction of roads and bridges.

For more information:


  • Ref: EC05-446EN
  • EU source: European Commission
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 19/12/2005

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See also

European Union Member States