EMERGENCY Wins Eesc Civil Solidarity Prize for Its Cross-Border Battle With the Pandemic

The Italian NGO EMERGENCY is among 23 projects from the EU and the UK that have received the award for their outstanding contribution to fighting COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize to the humanitarian NGO EMERGENCY for its invaluable role on the front line of the COVID-19 battlefield. A seasoned crisis-healthcare provider, the NGO developed a replicable and scalable model to design and manage hospitals in a pandemic and set up a field hospital in Bergamo when the city was a hotspot during the first surge of COVID-19 in Europe.

The EESC, an advisory body representing Europe’s civil society at the EU level, selected EMERGENCY as the winner in the category of projects that had a cross-border or European focus and were operational in more than one country.

The humanitarian NGO called on its decades of experience in providing crisis healthcare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Sierra Leone to respond to COVID-19. More usually focused on offering medical care to victims of war and poverty, in 2020, EMERGENCY provided assistance in Italy and around the world to contain the pandemic and its consequences. Its contribution was also key in the Mediterranean Sea, where EMERGENCY is involved in search and rescue operations.

EMERGENCY was announced as one of the 23 prize-winners at a virtual awards ceremony held by the EESC on 15 February. Each winner received a prize worth EUR 10 000.

Presenting the prizes, the EESC’s vice-president for communication, Cillian Lohan, said:

“The EESC has repeatedly stressed that solidarity and targeted shared action are key to surviving such a pandemic. The only effective response to a crisis such as this pandemic is to act quickly, decisively, and together. There are lessons here for dealing with other crises, whether they are social, economic or environmental.

Civil society has been at the forefront of all solidarity actions and without their help on the ground, the price paid for this pandemic would be much higher. All the projects we received are proof of selfless citizen and grassroots engagement, showing the contribution of civil society in this fight to be enormous. With this prize, we are acknowledging the people and organisations making a difference in these unprecedented times. It is an honour to be able to celebrate together”.

The awards went to the winning entries from 21 countries of the European Union. One prize was given to a project with a cross-border focus and one to an organisation from the United Kingdom, as a gesture meant to show that the EESC wanted to keep close ties with UK civil society, despite the fact that the country has left the EU.

Although the EESC aimed to find a winner from each EU Member State and from the UK, six countries offered no eligible entries.

The full list of the winners is available below and on our webpage.

The winners were selected from a total of 250 applications submitted by civil society organisations, individuals and private companies. All of the projects had solidarity as their driving force and displayed creative and effective ways of rising to the often-daunting challenges posed by the crisis.

Most projects targeted vulnerable groups or people most affected by the crisis such as the elderly and young people, children, women, minorities, migrants, the homeless, medical personnel or employees and employers.

As regards the projects’ content, there were five main themes: food supply and assistance to vulnerable groups, medical equipment, advisory services, educational services and information on the pandemic, and culture.


EMERGENCY received the award as one of the entries focusing on the theme “medical equipment in production and distribution”.

Having worked in Sierra Leone during the 2014/2015 Ebola outbreak, EMERGENCY was able to react to this new epidemic and implement infection prevention and control, as well as more effective triage in its clinics abroad to guarantee the continuity of non-COVID services. Its guidelines for compartmentalising health structures, for virus control and for protecting staff and patients were applied in developed health systems, as well as in those with fragile and under-resourced health care structures. EMERGENCY’s know-how was used in centres for minors and seniors, in shelters for migrants and on boats.

In Italy, one of the most badly affected countries at the start of the pandemic, EMERGENCY set up a field hospital in Bergamo, managed an ICU ward, and reorganised permanent and mobile clinics to prevent workers and patients catching the disease. Alongside international organisations, local governments, CSOs and public and private entities, it responded to the medical and social needs of people for whom the epidemic was not only a health risk but also a blow to their economic survival. In Milan, Catania, Venice and Piacenza, it set up a delivery service of basic goods for anyone to whom going out posed a threat

“This award acknowledges the importance of ensuring the same standard of protection and care worldwide. Our flexible and replicable response has been implemented in several contexts, from Europe to Asia and Africa,” explains President Rossella Miccio. “The prize’s potential to foster awareness and promote partnerships among a global audience is key as we focus on building resilient health systems and making sure that nobody is left behind during this health and social crisis. Therefore, EMERGENCY would like to dedicate this award to the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society. We’re committed to leave no one behind ”

Detailed information on all of the winners and other candidates can be found in our brochure, which is available upon request.

The EESC hopes that the Civil Solidarity Prize will enhance the visibility and raise awareness not only of the winning projects but also of many other creative citizens’ initiatives taking place in the EU.

“Today, we are not applauding only our 23 winners. We are taking our hats off to all of Europe’s civil society and to so many of its organisations, companies and individuals who have shown and who keep showing unprecedented solidarity, courage and civic responsibility in these difficult and trying times”, Mr Lohan said.

The projects and initiatives run by citizens and civil society in many ways complemented efforts undertaken by Member States to cushion the blows of the crisis and were even ahead of them in some areas, such as the production of face-masks at local and regional level, the EESC said.

Compared to the entries received for the Civil Society Prize in previous years, the EESC saw an increased number of applications from informal or less well-established organisations, which clearly demonstrates the spirit on the ground. There were also fewer entries from some countries that were less severely hit during the first wave of the pandemic or from those with stronger welfare systems.



The EESC launched the prize in July 2020, with the theme “Civil Society against COVID-19”, announcing that it would be an exceptional, one-off award replacing its trademark Civil Society Prize. The aim was to pay tribute to Europe’s civil society, which actively and selflessly engaged in acts of solidarity from the very first days of the pandemic.

The contest was open to individuals, civil society organisations and companies whose projects had to be strictly not-for-profit and not more than 50% publicly funded. They had to be directly linked to COVID-19, specifically aiming to fight the virus or to tackle its consequences.

Each year, the EESC’s flagship Civil Society Prize honours civil society organisations and/or individuals whose projects celebrate European identity and common values in a particular field of work. It has been awarded since 2006.




AUSTRIA Kommunikationswerkstatt Talk 27, a network fighting disinformation, fake news and misinformation on the pandemic and motivating citizens to stand up against emotional and cognitive manipulation
BELGIUM OKRA, trefpunt 55+, an association that responded to the pandemic with The resilience of OKRA, a creative initiative aimed at keeping older people active and socially connected;
BULGARIA Karin dom, a foundation which offered online training activities to support families of children with special needs
CROATIA Hrvatska mreža za beskućnike, a Croatian network which supported homeless people as the country moved into lockdown and was further hit by an earthquake
CYPRUS Volunteers for the support of vulnerable groups during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, for their initiatives that included the delivery of food and medicines to people isolating because of their age or health issues. The initiatives were coordinated by Erika Theofanidi
CZECHIA Nevypusť Duši – an association of doctors, psychologists and social workers whose online webinars helped high school students cope with mental health problems and build psychological resilience during the pandemic
FRANCE Bouge ton Coq, a platform that strives to keep rural France alive, for its initiative C’est ma tournée! (It’s my round!), which supported rural shops and businesses struggling to meet costs during the pandemic
GERMANY Krisenchat, a 24/7 counselling service that provided free practical support and comfort via Whatsapp or SMS to young people and children
GREECE Steps, a non-profit organisation that transformed its existing One-Stop project into Many Stops, providing hot meals, bottled water and personal hygiene products to homeless people and those in precarious housing;
HUNGARY Magyar Helsinki Bizottság, or the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which provided free legal assistance in human-rights-related cases linked to the crisis
IRELAND Alison Free Online Courses & Online Learning platform, for its project Coronavirus: What You Need to Know, a free COVID-19 facts course that has been translated into over 60 languages and has reached over 350 000 people worldwide
 ITALY Casetta Rossa, a non-profit association that combines food delivery to vulnerable people with a radio station broadcasting information and personal stories to boost morale
LITHUANIA Karolina Barišauskienė, a communications expert, for her project Priešakinėse linijose (At the Front Lines), a digital campaign of stories and insights from medical professionals on the coronavirus front line
MALTA Malta Chamber of SMEs, for its project With You All the Way, which provided online advice and peer support to help thousands of SMEs to adapt to the pandemic
POLAND Krystyna Paszko, a high-school student who created Chamomiles and Pansies, an online shop offering a lifeline to victims of domestic violence during lockdown
PORTUGAL Vizinhos à Janela, a neighbourhood initiative presented by Íñigo Hurtado, which brought some relief through daily balcony concerts and food delivery to people in need
ROMANIA Asociatia Prematurilor, the Romanian association of premature babies, for its project Support for Medical Staff and Newborns in Maternity – Protective Equipment and Apparatus Against COVID-19 in maternity wards
SLOVENIA Društvo psihologov Slovenije, an association of Slovenian psychologists, for their project Psychosocial Support to General Public and Professional Support to Psychologists and Other Healthcare Professionals During COVID-19 Outbreak in Slovenia
SLOVAKIA Človek v ohrození, a non-profit NGO, for its initiative
Their Health is Also Our Health, which supported hard-hit Roma communities and helped them through the pandemic
SPAIN Asociación de Familias y Mujeres del Medio Rural (AFAMMER), an association of families and women in rural areas for its project AFAMMER Great Rural Solidarity Network, which brought together hundreds of women in rural Spain who donated their time and sewing skills to tackle a shortage of protective masks and the growing isolation of elderly people during the pandemic;
SWEDEN Community and arts space and non-for-profit company  Blivande, for its project Crisis Response – an open-source initiative to create protective healthcare equipment on a large scale
UNITED KINGDOM Cherwell Collective, CIC, for their project Live, Learn, Eat, Grow, which provided food and other essentials to people in need and trained residents to grow their own food
CROSS-BORDER / EUROPEAN Emergency, an Italy-based NGO, for the assistance it provided in Europe and worldwide to contain the pandemic, in particular through its Replicable Model of Safety and Protection Measures, a scalable model to design and manage hospitals during the pandemic


For more information, please contact:

Laura Lui, EESC Press Unit

Email: press@eesc.europa.eu

Tel: + 32 2 546 9189


VIDEO: The EESC from the inside



The European Economic and Social Committee represents the various economic and social components of organised civil society. It is an institutional consultative body established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Its consultative role enables its members, and hence the organisations they represent, to participate in the EU decision-making process.




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