United States Continues Leadership in Responding to Crisis in Syria

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
February 4, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses delegates during the Syria Donors Conference in London, on February 4, 2016. [AP Photo]

In the face of unparalleled need and unprecedented refugee flows, our response must be extraordinary. That is why the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Kuwait, and the United Nations convened the Fourth International Donors Conference on Syria in London on February 4, 2016. The conference was held to help meet the 2016 United Nations appeal of $8 billion in assistance aid for Syria and the region.

The Gravest Humanitarian Emergency in a Generation

In discussing the current situation in Syria and the surrounding regions, Secretary Kerry stated that the humanitarian situation and the escalating violence “should tear at the conscience of all civilized people,” and made clear “we all have a responsibility to respond to it.” The relentless warfare in Syria has now raged for nearly five years triggering the gravest humanitarian emergency in a generation,with more than two thirds of Syria’s prewar population -- 17 million people -- in need of humanitarian assistance. 

U.S. Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance

The United States is the single largest donor to the response to the Syrian crisis. In remarks at the donor’s conference today, Secretary Kerry announced that the United States is providing nearly $601 million in additional life-saving humanitarian assistance for those affected by the war in Syria. This new funding brings U.S. humanitarian assistance in response to this conflict to more than $5.1 billion since the start of the crisis. Secretary Kerry also announced more than $290 million in U.S. development assistance for education to Jordan and Lebanon.

Through this humanitarian funding, the United States continues to provide food, shelter, water, medical care, humanitarian protection, and other urgent relief to millions of people suffering inside Syria and 4.6 million refugees from Syria in the region. It also helps mitigate the impact of the crisis on governments and communities throughout the region that are straining to cope with the mass influx of refugees from Syria. 

The Road Ahead

The International Donors Conference on Syria is the first in a series of high-profile meetings and summits this year that will offer a once in a generation opportunity to make real progress, both in responding to the Syria crisis, and in modernizing the humanitarian system to meet today’s challenges.

  • In March, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will hold a high-level meeting on resettlement, and other legal pathways of admission for Syrian refugees seeking to find safety outside Syria. 
     
  • In April, the World Bank will host a forum on new approaches to protracted forced displacement, co-organized by the World Bank, UNHCR and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). 
     
  • On May 23 and 24, the UN Secretary General will assemble leaders for the World Humanitarian Summit.
     
  • And in September, U.S. efforts to galvanize significant new global commitments will build toward a high-level summit on refugees hosted by President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly. This event will be the culmination of a vigorous, sustained diplomatic effort undertaken by the United States over the coming months to increase humanitarian assistance, access to resettlement and other legal forms of admission, and refugee self-reliance and inclusion through employment and education. 

The humanitarian crises around the world have made painfully clear that despite our best efforts, all nations must do more. That is why, in today’s remarks, Secretary Kerry made an appeal to the global community to increase by at least 30 percent the overall response to humanitarian funding appeals for refugees between now and the UN meetings this fall. The Secretary outlined the call for additional support stating, “We urge at least 10 countries to make pledges that have never made pledges before. We urge 10 nations to open their doors to refugee admissions that have not done so in the past. We urge multilateral development banks to find ways to help countries like Jordan and Lebanon by offering concessional finance for programs that support services or job creation, and to help host communities. And we urge special attention to the problem not simply of housing but of helping refugees through education and employment, to build self-reliance and to resume a normal life.” 

During his statement today in London, Secretary Kerry reflected on the story of a Syrian refugee named Mohamad who lost four of his sons to the conflict and expressed a very simple dream shared by many other refugees: to make a decent living, to be self-sufficient, and to be viewed as human being. Mohamad and the millions of other Syrians affected by this crisis are why the international community must come together to provide humanitarian support, and to pursue a cessation of hostilities in and around Syria. Secretary Kerry concluded, “I can assure you we will get back to these talks in Geneva, and we will do the business that the nation and the world has set out for.”

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