Member States' Specialised Agencies (MSSAs)

Pursuant to Article 9 of Humanitarian Aid Regulation ("HAR"), humanitarian aid actions financed from the European Union budget may, where necessary, be implemented by a Specialised Agency of a Member State ("MSSA"). The MSSAs are national public law bodies or bodies governed by private law, set up in a Member State of the EU, with a public-service mission in the area of humanitarian aid.

What are the eligibility criteria?

The HAR provides guidance on the common criteria that ECHO's potential partners must comply with in order to implement humanitarian actions with Union funding. They must be entities set up in a Member State and specialised in the field of humanitarian aid and they must have legal personality in order to have the authority to undertake legal obligations and to sign contracts.

Although the HAR does not provide a definition of MSSAs, Article 58(1) of the Financial regulation provides for the possibility to implement the EU budget through "public law bodies /or/ bodies governed by private law with a public service mission to the extent that they provide adequate financial guarantees."

In addition, the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, which was signed by the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council on 18 December 2007, has reaffirmed EU's commitment to the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Accordingly, ECHO only provides funding for humanitarian aid actions to organisations which commit to respect these fundamental principles.

Based on the above, entities wishing to be recognised as an MSSA by ECHO must comply with the following criteria:

1. Legal registration in a Member State

An MSSA should be an entity established in a Member State of the EU, either as:

  • a public law body, or as
  • a private law entity with a public service mission. ┬áBodies governed by private law, set up in a Member State of the EU, must be officially endowed with a public-service mission in the area of humanitarian aid by a specific act or decision of, or in agreement with, the relevant authorities of one of the Member States of the EU. In the absence of such an act or decision, the entity needs to be effectively controlled by the relevant authorities so that it can therefore be considered as an emanation of the same, acting solely or at least predominately in the pursuit of a public service mission.

2. Legal personality

An MSSA must have sufficient legal personality so as to have the authority to undertake legal obligations, sign contracts, benefit from external funding and justify its costs.

3. Humanitarian mandate and respect for humanitarian principles

Applicant MSSAs must be active in the field of humanitarian aid; their mandate shall relate to the objectives and general principles of humanitarian aid, as outlined in Article 2 of the HAR, and they shall have at least three years of proven relevant experience in the field of humanitarian aid. Applicant MSSA must also commit to respect the fundamental humanitarian principles:

  • Humanity means that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found with particular attention to the most vulnerable in the population. The dignity of all victims must be respected and protected.
  • Neutrality means that humanitarian aid must not favour any side in an armed conflict or other dispute.
  • Impartiality denotes that humanitarian aid must be provided solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations.
  • Respect for independence means the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from political, economic, military or other objectives, and serves to ensure that the sole purpose of humanitarian aid remains to relieve and prevent the suffering of victims of humanitarian crises.

4. Financial solidity

Applicant MSSAs that are private law bodies must provide adequate financial guarantees. Such financial guarantees will notably be deemed to exist where public authorities act as guarantor.

5. Procurement procedure

Applicant qualifying as a Contracting Authority under EU Public Procurement Directives will only have to inform ECHO that it is bound by EU procurement rules.

Where it is not the case, the applicant will be required, to provide documentation detailing its procurement procedures. These procurement procedures have to comply with the Principles and Procedures applicable to procurement contracts awarded within the framework of humanitarian aid actions financed by the European Union .

How to become an MSSA?

To obtain recognition as an MSSA by ECHO, entities complying with the above criteria, need to submit an Application form. It is to be accompanied by supporting documentation (see Application form) through which the applicant demonstrates compliance with the above criteria. Non-submission of the required supporting documents may result in the rejection of the application.

The Application form and the supporting documents must be returned to ECHO to the following e-mail address:

The application will be considered formally received when the signed Application form, together with all the required supporting documents, is registered by ECHO. This will be communicated to the applicant.

ECHO will then assess the application. It will formally inform the applicant in writing of the outcome of the application.

During the course of the assessment, if needed, ECHO will request specific documents and additional information from the applicant or the national authorities of the applicant's Member State of establishment and carry out verification missions at the headquarters of the applicant. Failure to provide ECHO with the requested information or documentation may be considered by ECHO as a renunciation of the application and the assessment process will be discontinued and closed. In such a case, the applicant will be informed formally and in writing thereof.

If the outcome of the assessment is successful, the applicant will be informed formally and in writing thereof and the applicant will be recognised as an MSSA by ECHO. As MSSAs do not sign a Framework Partnership Agreement with ECHO, the MSSA in question will be asked to acknowledge its acceptance of the relevant terms and conditions (contractual template) to be used in the event where the MSSA would request and be awarded Union funding.

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