UPDATE: British humanitarian NGOs face multimillion Brexit shortfall

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British NGOs received €145 million from the EU’s emergency aid department, ECHO, in 2015. When the UK leaves the EU following Brexit, UK-registered non-profits will no longer be eligible for that funding, and the ECHO annual budget is also likely to shrink in the absence of UK contributions.

As official British aid is 100 percent “untied” – UK companies and charities are allowed no advantage in getting grants – replacing the lost ECHO funding from the UK aid ministry, DFID, could not be guaranteed without a major policy change.

***As article 50 is triggered, we update this report with an insert reflecting ECHO's updated spending data for 2016.***

UK NGO alliance BOND says the British government should "commit to underwriting current EU grants to UK NGOs that continue beyond the UK’s exit from the EU."

British agencies share of the ECHO contracts slipped somewhat to 9.4 percent in 2016, but the total value was up 17 percent, over €205 million. 

  • Total ECHO contracts in 2016: €2,18 billion
  • ECHO contracts with UK agencies in 2016: €205 million (9.4 percent of total ECHO contracts)
  • The total value of contracts won by UK agencies was up 17%, partly due to €30m of spending in Greece
  • Countries with most spending through UK grantees: Greece, Iraq, Syria, Turkey
  • Over half of the UK spending went to these four agencies: International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps and Save the Children 
  • NB: Final figures for 2015 show €175m for UK agencies (that's higher than the total available at the time of original publication)

*** Original article continues... ***

Among the largest recipients of ECHO humanitarian funding in 2015 were the British wings of multinational, or federated, NGOs, including International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and Save the Children. These have affiliates registered elsewhere in the EU.

According to Toby Porter, CEO of HelpAge, a British NGO that contracted €1.6 million from ECHO in 2015, the transnational NGO groupings can route around the issue. In a blog post, he predicts: “the easiest workaround will simply be for the non-UK European members of the big global alliances to take over the contracting of EuropeAid and ECHO funding from their UK counterparts”.

However, among the 25 agencies funded by ECHO last year, several do not have such a sophisticated regulatory setup. Small NGOs that receive a higher proportion of their income from the EU face a bigger impact, and a future without EU funding. One British NGO manager told IRIN that it is facing significant uncertainty, and that losing the EU as a donor was only one of many issues to juggle, including exchange rate fluctuation. IRIN asked a number of other NGOs for comment but did not receive a response before publication.

ECHO funds represent, on average, only six percent of total income across the 25 recipients. The full list of grantees and Euro amounts is below:

The EU’s overall international development budget is larger than the emergency aid spending of ECHO. Some of these funds also flow to British non-profits and contractors. According to UK NGO consortium BOND, its 400 members have, on average, 39 percent of their income from governments, and of that governmental income, 12 percent is from the EU.

Lead photo: Aftermath of an earthquake, Ecuador, May 2016 - photo (c) European Commission/Hilaire Avril

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