More than $10 billion pledged at Syria donors conference
London - “After almost five years of fighting, it’s pretty incredible that, as we come here to London in 2016, the situation on the ground [in Syria] is actually worse, not better. And the suffering in Syria grows. It’s not diminishing,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said to representatives of 60 countries at the Syria donors conference.
The February 4th meeting, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron, sought to deal with the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, just days after peace negotiations in Geneva to end the 5-year-old civil war were called off.
An atmosphere of gloom pervaded the conference, with world leaders decrying the deteriorating situation in Syria and calling on the international community to do more to address the crisis.
“The situation in Syria is as close to hell as we are likely to find on this Earth,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Approximately $11 billion — the largest amount raised in a single day — was pledged at the London conference, which was seeking a “new approach” to address the crisis.
Pledges approaching $6 billion were made for 2016. An estimated $5 billion was pledged over the long term to 2020.
Cameron dubbed the conference a “future model for humanitarian relief” and sought to strike a hopeful tone about the international community’s commitment to Syria.
“Today has been and is a day of hope, a day about saving lives, a day about building futures, a day about giving people the chance of a future, the chance of a life,” he said.
“If ever there was a moment to take a new approach to the humanitarian crisis in Syria — surely it is now.”
Cameron pledged $1.75 billion in aid, more than doubling Britain’s commitment to Syrian refugees to approximately $3.4 billion.
Germany, the top destination for Syrian asylum seekers in Europe, remains the top pledger, promising some $1.3 billion in 2016, with a further $1.2 billion from 2017-20. The European Commission pledged $1 billion in 2016 and a further $1.4 billion until 2020. The United States committed $900 million in 2016, bringing its total commitment to $5 billion.
Britain, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the next largest donors for 2016, figures revealed.
The conference was the fourth to address the needs of the 6 million Syrians who have been internally displaced and the more than 4 million refugees who have fled the country.
According to the United Nations, more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. More than 2.5 million are in Turkey, often the last stop on an eventual journey into Europe.
Lebanon and Jordan have struggled to deal with the massive influx of Syrian refugees, allocating significant proportions of their national budgets.
“Looking into the eyes of my people and seeing the hardship and distress they carry, I must tell you we have reached our limit,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II told donors.
Another major theme of the conference was education, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai calling on donors to earmark $1.4 billion to provide education to the estimated 700,000 Syrian children who are out of school.
“It is a number the world can afford. Losing this generation is a cost the world cannot,” she said.
Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey pledged to ensure that refugee children in their countries would have access to education.