De invloed van ngo's op het humanitaire beleid van de Europese Unie

Roel Van Overmeire
Over bijna alle vormen van lobbyen is er al geschreven, behalve over hoe lobbyen gebeurt in het humanitaire beleid van de Europese Unie. Deze thesis geeft een weergave van hoe er gelobbyd wordt door humanitaire ngo's, en geeft de effecten van de vluchtelingencrisis weer op de humanitaire lobbywereld.

Ineffectief lobbywerk bij de vluchtelingencrisis

De manier waarop humanitaire ngo’s lobbyen is veranderd door de vluchtelingencrisis. Dat is gebleken uit de masterproef van Roel Van Overmeire. Het humanitaire beleid is versplinterd en draait niet langer alleen om hulp geven. Hierdoor krijgen wereldwijde crisissen onvoldoende aandacht en fondsen.

De vluchtelingencrisis heeft de Europese Unie door elkaar geschud, zowel op vlak van normen en waarden als op het vlak van beleid. Wat minder bekend is, is dat ook het lobbyen van humanitaire ngo’s is veranderd. Dat lijkt een klein detail, maar het heeft gigantische gevolgen.

Lobbyen heeft een negatieve bijklank. Het roept beelden op van zakenmannen in maatpakken die in achterkamertjes deals sluiten en de democratie buitenspel zetten. Maar lobbyen wordt ook gedaan door humanitaire ngo’s, die ervoor proberen zorgen dat hulp voor rampgebieden zo goed mogelijk gegeven wordt.

In de Europese Unie moeten ngo’s daarvoor onderhandelen met DG ECHO (Directorate-General European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations), het onderdeel van de Europese Unie dat verantwoordelijk is voor het verlenen van humanitaire hulp. DG ECHO geeft fondsen aan ngo’s, die vervolgens met dat geld in rampgebieden hulp geven.

Ngo’s lobbyen tegelijkertijd ook voor betere voorwaarden voor hun contracten met DG ECHO, of proberen ervoor te zorgen dat het rampgebied waar zij werken meer aandacht krijgt. Beide partijen hebben een sterke band: ze hebben vaak contact met elkaar en wisselen veel informatie uit. Anders dan men misschien zou verwachten, komt lobbyen in het humanitaire beleid vaak zelfs neer op samen een koffie drinken en over het beleid te praten.

Hoe het allemaal veranderde

Sinds 2011 vluchten er grote hoeveelheden mensen uit rampgebieden naar Europa. Deze mensen moeten vaak in verschrikkelijke omstandigheden leven en daarom riep de Europese Unie Griekenland uit als een humanitair rampgebied. Ngo’s krijgen fondsen van DG ECHO om er hulp te verlenen. Grotendeels business as usual. Uit interviews met lobbyisten van ngo’s, medewerkers van DG ECHO en Europese Parlementsleden, bleek dat schijn bedriegt.

Ngo’s in Griekenland worden gedwongen te werken in afgrijselijke toestanden: slecht sanitair, een bureaucratische rompslop en een overvloed aan hulpbehoevenden. Tegelijk merken ngo’s in Azië en Zuid-Amerika dat Europa plotseling geen aandacht meer geeft aan het gebied waar ze werken, waardoor ze ook minder fondsen ontvangen. Waarom dan niet lobbyen bij DG ECHO? Daar knelt net het schoentje: in het nieuwe tijdperk, houdt DG ECHO de deur toe voor ngo’s. 

Het dilemma van DG ECHO

DG ECHO lijkt de boeman in dit verhaal. Dat is een illusie, want Europese politiek is nooit eendimensionaal. Dit onderdeel van de Europese Commissie ondervindt namelijk grote druk van de rest van de Europese Unie om te helpen met het tegenhouden van vluchtelingen. DG ECHO heeft een dilemma: enerzijds is het opgericht om de best mogelijke humanitaire hulp te bieden. Anderzijds is het deel van de Europese Commissie, die nu vraagt dat DG ECHO in plaats van mensen te helpen in rampgebieden, ervoor moet zorgen dat mensen in die rampgebieden blijven en niet naar Europa komen.

Wie wint er? Politiek of het apolitieke humanitaire beleid? Het antwoord ligt in Griekenland, in de zinkende bootjes van vluchtelingen of in humanitaire situaties zoals Afghanistan, waar Europese fondsen naar grensbewakers gaan die ervoor moeten zorgen dat er niet meer inwoners vluchten uit het land.  

Ondanks kritiek kunnen veel ngo’s niet de samenwerking met DG ECHO verbreken, omdat ze de fondsen nodig hebben om te overleven. Vol hoop blijven ze daarom lobbyen bij DG ECHO. Veel laaggeplaatsten bij de organisatie luisteren nog altijd, maar het zijn de directeurs die de knopen moeten doorhakken, en laat het nu net hen zijn die andere zorgen en prioriteiten hebben.

Vanuit het perspectief van DG ECHO lijkt er ook simpelweg geen andere keuze te zijn dan verder te gaan op dit pad. Maar hoe verder ze gaan, hoe meer de Europese humanitaire tak verder wordt uitgehold. Naast haar bestaansreden, verliest deze DG ook haar macht aan andere delen van de Europese Commissie. DG ECHO valt hoe langer hoe meer onder het Europese binnenlands- en buitenlands beleid. Het is een straatje zonder einde.

Op zoek naar nieuwe bondgenoten  

Humanitaire ngo’s zien het met lede ogen aan. Als DG ECHO geen effectieve macht meer heeft, dan moeten ze maar bij de echte spelers gaan, zoals de tak van de Commissie die zich bezighoudt met het Europese buitenlands beleid. Die hebben vaak niets te maken met het humanitaire beleid. Daarenboven hebben de ngo’s helemaal geen band met de mensen van deze Europese takken, nauwelijks connecties, en moeten ze hun lobbystrategieën volledig herdenken. Ze vertoeven op onbekend terrein.

Daarom proberen humanitaire ngo’s ook andere strategieën uit, met de achterliggende gedachte: als de EU niet luistert, dan zullen we ervoor zorgen dat het publiek luistert. Ze verenigen krachten met ngo’s die niets te maken hebben met humanitair beleid, gebruiken reclamecampagnes en proberen bondgenoten te vinden buiten de Europese Commissie.

Wat dit betekent…

Het humanitaire beleid is versplinterd en draait niet meer om hulp geven, met als gevolg dat er wereldwijd crisissen zijn die onvoldoende fondsen en aandacht krijgen. Humanitaire ngo’s hebben hun impact op het beleid verloren met betrekking tot de vluchtelingencrisis. De gevolgen daarvan zijn te zien op het nieuws als het over Griekenland gaat of over bootvluchtelingen. Als ngo’s de kern van het Europese humanitaire beleid zijn, dan is de ineffectiviteit van hun lobbyen ook de kern van de Europese humanitaire crisis.  

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of science in de EU-studies
Publicatiejaar
2017
Promotor
Sarah Delputte
Kernwoorden