Syria: Five things you need to know about the Kuwait Pledging Conference
The international community will gather in Kuwait City on 15 January to pledge its support for humanitarian efforts in Syria and neighbouring countries for the second year in succession. As the world prepares to show its solidarity with the people of Syria, who continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, UN agencies and humanitarian partners are working to meet the increasing humanitarian needs brought about by this brutal conflict.
An estimated 9.3 million people in Syria, many of them stranded in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, urgently need help. Nearly half of them are children, who do not have adequate access to health care or education. Another 2 million people have fled the country and now live as refugees, mostly in the region.
Here are five key points about why the pledging conference matters to the humanitarian community, and most importantly, to the people of Syria.
Global solidarity in action
“Today, we have now seen global solidarity in action,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, commenting on the generosity of Member States at the first Kuwait conference on 30 January 2013. “We have brought a message of hope to the millions of Syrians who have been affected by this terrible crisis.”
Last year some 60 countries gathered in Kuwait to show their support. Hosted by the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, and chaired by the Secretary-General, Bani Ki-moon, the pledging conference gave Member States an opportunity to continue supporting the much-needed humanitarian response to help millions of people affected by the Syria crisis.
Some of the countries that pledged the most funding included Kuwait ($300 million), the United States ($155 million), the European Commission ($133 million), the United Kingdom ($81 million), Saudi Arabia ($78 million), Japan ($65 million), Norway ($38 million), Canada ($25 million) and Sweden ($23 million).
Kick-starting support for UN humanitarian appeals
Last year, over 40 donors pledged a total of $1.54 billion during the conference. The funding helped to fulfil critical aid efforts listed in the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) and the Regional Response Plan (RRP) – two major appeals launched by UN agencies and humanitarian partners to reach 6.8 million people with aid in 2013.
The SHARP and RRP, which were 70 per cent funded by the end of the year, helped aid organizations reach 10 million people in Syria with clean water, over 4 million people with food aid and agricultural support, 3.6 million with health care and 1.5 million children with school supplies.
Syrian refugee families received tents, blankets, warm clothes and psychosocial support in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The generosity of donors allowed millions of Syrian children to be vaccinated against measles, rubella, mumps and polio.
Expectations for the 2014 pledging conference
“We hope that donors will continue to give generously,” said UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos during a recent Twitter Chat on the Syria crisis. Humanitarian agencies and their partners need increased funding for 2014 to keep pace with increased needs, as the conflict continues and intensifies.
Last year an estimated 6.8 million people in Syria needed assistance. That figure now stands at 9.3 million. Funding requirements for the SHARP and RRP have increased dramatically since 2013, from $4.4 billion to $6.5 billion in 2014. UN agencies hope that the pledging conference will meet some of these funding requirements.
Humanitarian aid plans in 2014
In 2014, aid organizations hope to provide more emergency assistance in order to meet the growing demands of the crisis. They also aim to provide longer-term support to help families who have lost their homes and incomes to rebuild their lives and communities. Many Syrian refugees do not have access to the most basic public services and host communities in neighbouring countries need support to cope with the growing influx. Through the SHARP and the RRP, aid agencies and NGOs have costed and prioritized their plans to meet the most urgent needs as quickly as possible.
The 2014 SHARP will be used to strengthen the operational capacity of national and international aid organizations, whose staff risk their lives every day to reach people with aid. Since 2011, nearly 50 aid workers have died, many of them from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
A regional crisis
“The crisis is now regional, not limited to Syria,” said Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos, adding that it is important that UN agencies and partners recognize this fact “in all discussions and negotiations.”
Joint studies by the UN and the World Bank have confirmed the devastating effect of the refugee influx on economies across the region. The UN is working with host governments and other partners to build the resilience of host communities and neighbouring states through a Comprehensive Regional Strategy, which will be finalized in April 2014.
The UN Refugee Agency calls the crisis “one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history with no end yet in sight.” It has warned that if the conflict continues, the refugee population in the region could reach over 4 million by the end of 2014. In Lebanon, refugees now make up more than 20 percent of the entire population.
“UN agencies as well as national and international NGOs are working together to address the needs of Syrian refugees and assist the countries in the region who have so generously taken them in,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “The RRP calls for further efforts to benefit host communities, who offer front-line protection and essential support to refugees.”