The Netherlands now has a new fund dedicated to emergency aid for victims of conflict and natural disasters.
The Dutch government launched the 570 million euro ($734 million) fund this week, during the presentation of the 2015 national budget. The money is available through 2017, and supplements the annual humanitarian budget of about 210 million euros.
The fund will be used to provide acute assistance in crisis-affected areas, particularly in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Ebola-hit countries in West Africa. It will also be tapped to help prevent natural disasters, for example by providing early warning systems.
“We cannot just leave [the population in these countries] to their fate,” Lilianne Ploumen, the Netherlands’ minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, said in a news release.
Dutch aid organizations welcomed the new fund, but also stressed the need for structural support and a sustainable way of addressing the root causes of conflict and crises.
According to Cordaid Director Simone Filippini, “a sustainable and coherent policy for fragile regions and conflict countries” is needed. Oxfam Novib Director Farah Karimi, meanwhile, noted that although providing greater emergency aid is a positive move, support for “structural building and social development” is essential too.
In the past, the Dutch aid and trade minister reapportioned small sums from the country’s humanitarian budget to help finance aid for sudden crises. Ploumen has been able to unilaterally release 36 million euros from the aid budget this year, channeling the emergency funds mainly through the U.N. system and Red Cross, and also via Dutch aid organizations that work with local partners in the crisis-affected areas.
This included 300,000 euros to help Médecins Sans Frontières respond to the Ebola crisis and last month’s disbursement of 1 million euros to provide food, water and blankets to Iraq’s Yazidi minority, who were being targeted by the Islamic State group.
But the proliferation of crises depleted the means the minister had at her disposal, making it necessary to set up a new, separate emergency aid fund. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that up to 170 million euros will be disbursed in 2015, it has not yet laid out how the fund will be administered.
Apart from the emergency fund, the Dutch government has made available 375 million euros from the development budget. The money will be spent on hosting the first year of refugees who will seek asylum in the Netherlands in 2014 and 2015.