5 February 2016

On 4 February, a donor conference in London raised more than 10 billion US $ in international aid to support people caught up in the Syrian conflict. Co-hosted by the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, and the United Nations, the ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’ conference brought together world leaders from around the globe to rise to the challenge of raising the money needed to help millions of people whose lives have been torn apart by the devastating civil war.

Germany, which took in more than 1 million refugees last year, will be the largest single donor, by pledging $2.5bn through 2018. Britain pledged $1.75bn in new aid between now and 2020, and the US committed $900m to bring total US humanitarian spending to $5bn.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the conference received pledges approaching $6bn for 2016 alone, and a further $5bn over the longer term to 2020. “It means millions of people will now receive life-saving food medical care and shelter in Syria and beyond,” he said.

One million children currently not in school would be given access to education by the end of the next school year. Countries in the region have agreed to open up their economies to create new jobs. The move will be backed by loans from international financial institutions and access to European markets.

A group of over NGOs, including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children, Sawa Aid and Development, and Islamic Relief, welcomed the ambition but said that overall pledges for 2016 fell more than $3 billion short of what was urgently needed. 

“Of course we welcome the funds pledged today, but all the money in the world won’t protect children in their beds from barrel bombs. We need action to stop the indiscriminate bombardment of Syrians, to protect those under siege and facing starvation, and those barred by violence or bureaucracy from safely accessing food, water and shelter. We urge all those with influence to exert concerted diplomatic pressure on all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and with the UN Security Council’s binding resolutions,” said Raed al-Saleh, head of the Syria Civil Defence, aka the White Helmets.

The NGOs also warned that many Syrians would continue to suffer unless more was done to ensure their protection inside and outside the country, and an end to the violence in Syria.

“The London conference is a potential turning point (…) Money for aid, although vital, will not solve the crisis. Indications that Syria’s neighbors will allow refugees to work must rapidly translate into action.  And ultimately, there needs to be an end to the massive violations in Syria. Governments in London can’t rest on their laurels when the peace talks in Geneva are faltering and the violence continues unabated,” said Andy Baker, Regional programme manager for Oxfam.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 5 February 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.