Kuwait plays host to the world as efforts to help Syrian refugees continues
Today Wednesday, the 30th January, Kuwait will host the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which was announced by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the most-recent Gulf Cooperation Council Summit held in Bahrain. The conference will host around 60 nations and 20 humanitarian relief organisations and is goal is to gather pledges worth US$ 1.5 billion in assistance for the Syrian people displaced by a violent political struggle inside their country. The required amount was announced by the UN and will be used until June to help some 500,000 Syrians displaced and living in neighbouring countries; this number is expected to rise to one million come June - with four million others displaced within Syria. Middle East Times Int'l, Australia will report on the outcome of the conference, both online and in the next edition of its magazine.
Syrian conference reflects Kuwait's key humanitarian role
Information Minister Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah says the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, held here on Wednesday, reflects Kuwait's leading role in backing the international community's humanitarian efforts.
``The state of Kuwait's organisation of this conference stems from the big confidence and humanitarian role it enjoys, and its involvement in repeated humanitarian initiatives aim at supporting the international community, either directly or indirectly,” Sheikh Salman, who is also Minister of State for Youth Affairs, told reporters after inaugurating the press centre for the conference.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah's answer to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call to host the conference ``is clear evidence that Kuwait enjoys a leading international, humanitarian and democratic status, as well as its keenness to support all relief efforts,” Sheikh Salman says.
He hopes all international efforts to end the Syrian conflict as soon as possible would prove to be fruitful and commended the US$182 million in pledges from non-government organisations (NGOs) made earlier today. He is hopeful the Pledging Conference will succeed in securing the US$1.5 billion needed for the refugees.
Kuwait plays "great" role in aiding Syrian people
The co-ordinator of the Turkey Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), Izzat Shahin has praised the ``great’’ role of Kuwait in supporting humanitarian relief efforts for Syria.
Shahin said in a statement: ``From the beginning of the crisis we are co-operating with Kuwait and see their services inside Syria and in neighbouring countries’’.
He also said Kuwait was one of the first donor countries to come to the aid of the Syrian people in reference to Kuwaiti efforts to build a model village in Turkey comprising 1000 houses, two health centres and two schools and to Kuwait ``great role’’ in aid of the Syrian people in the country through sending food and other relief.
Shahin also mentioned his country's aid for Syrian refugees on its borders, estimated to number 150,000, and double that number in Turkish cities, who are receiving aid through the Turkish Red Crescent.
NGO donors pledge US$182m for refugees
The conference of non-government organisation donors for the relief of the Syrian people ended on Tuesday with pledges from 77 local, Gulf and international organizations for about US$182 million for Syrian refugees.
The deputy Director General of the International Islamic Charitable Organisation, Iyad Al-Sharekh said after the conference that the pledges are ``promising’’.
Al-Sharekh says that the amount pledged is within “what we had hoped for, in addition to all that has been collected over the past year in Kuwait and abroad’’.
He notes that the Kuwaiti Relief Society “will be collecting pledges and co-ordinate among all charities and humanitarian societies that had participated” followed by setting up health, education and humanitarian relief programs.
He says that the most important aspect of the conference is “devoting and confirming the value of partnership, cooperation and coordination in the implementation of relief and humanitarian projects to help victims everywhere”.
He adds that the conference ``is a great start for non-government humanitarian organisations in the Gulf, Arab or Islamic world to co-ordinate all efforts to provide aid for victims everywhere”.
UNHCR official praises Kuwait for hosting conference
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees Panos Moumtzis was highly appreciative of Kuwait's role, under the directions of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, in securing the needs of Syrian refugees.
Kuwaiti NGOs provide a leading role in these efforts, he said, and maintaining the need for co-ordination between international parties taking part.
He urged the need for a ``precise mechanism for the transportation of humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees’’.
``Syria is currently the worst human catastrophe in the world. I am particularly anxious about the state of displaced Syrians residing in neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq whom receive thousands each day," he says.
``Around 3000-5000 displaced Syrians have crossed the borders to neighbouring countries in recent weeks representing an average of over 100, 000 people a month, which is considered a large number by humanitarian standards."
Besides its role in countries around Syria, the UN is carrying out its role for over four million Syrians displaced inside their country by covering their urgent humanitarian needs. All this is done in collaboration with international NGOs, he says.
He hopes borders would remain open to Syrians displaced by the fighting.
``It is an international responsibility. We should all practise our duty in rescuing these civilians, who are living under difficult and impossible conditions,’’ He says relief efforts need more than US$1 billion.
EU underlines importance of conference
The European Union's top humanitarian official Tuesday voiced gratitude to Kuwait for hosting the international donors conference for Syria and pledged 100 million Euros in aid.
"It comes at a very crucial time when we see that there is no political solution yet in sight but the suffering of the Syrians is very dramatic and it is crucial to raise more money," Kristalina Georgeiva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said before she left Brussels for Kuwait.
"I hope the other donors will do what the European donors are doing to step up to the plate. It is also very critical that we use the conference to raise awareness of the necessity for the parties in conflict to allow humanitarian assistance to get to the people," she said.
"I want to express my personal gratitude to Kuwait for hosting this conference at this crucial time," said the EU Commissioner.
The International Pledging Conference on Syria will take place in Kuwait on Wednesday. It will be hosted by the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah , and chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Commenting on the humanitarian aid contributioned by Gulf Cooperation Council countries , she said that "over the years the Gulf countries have stepped up their humanitarian assistance to people in need and in the context of Syria they have been contributing”.
“Now is the time for this contribution to both increase in monetary terms but also for all to co-ordinate better what we do," she suggested.
"I believe the conference is a very important step towards more co-ordination., more understanding of how we can use our different capabilities and organisations to reach out to as many people as possible.’’
During the conference, Georgeiva will be meeting Kuwaiti and other officials.
"I will have a series of bilateral meetings that go in the direction of "first unite on the criticality of more funds more access more coordination," she told KUNA.
Earlier speaking at a press conference in Brussels, she noted that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is getting worse by the day.
With exception of Damascus and some surrounding areas, access to humanitarian aid is restricted. More and more refugees are crossing into neighbouring countries and have passed the 700,000 mark, she noted.
The harsh winter has complicated the situation of internally displaced Syrians whose number has reached 2 million.
"Donors urgently need to provide additional resources. I will go to Kuwait and on behalf of the European people I will pledge 100 million euro," announced the EU Commissioner.
This comes on top of 100 million euro humanitarian assistance already delivered by the European Commission in Syria.
The total EU humanitarian aid to Syria has reached nearly 317 million euro so far, she noted.
``At the conference in Kuwait I will also reiterate the need to respect international humanitarian law and to abide by humanitarian principles at all times ," she added.
Gulf, Saudi officials praise Kuwait's role
Gulf and Saudi officials have praised Kuwait for its giant humanitarian role in helping the Syrian people.
Ihsan Tayyeb, secretary general of the Saudi international Islamic Relief Authority, says the Kuwait-based International Islamic Charity Organisation's (IICO) hosting of a conference of non-government organisation (NGO) donors for the relief of the Syrian people was a ``great initiative to unite the nation and unite efforts towards leading humanitarian aid’’.
Speaking after the NGOs conference, Tayyeb says the Saudi authority's participation stems from its responsibility as an international organisation active in humanitarian action and that the Saudi authority had been active in helping refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Al-Falahi, secretary general of the UAE Red Crescent, says the NGOs donor conference is a ``big event” attracting worldwide attention.
Al-Falahi says he appreciates Kuwait's efforts to collect financial resources to help the Syrian people and that the UAE believes that it is important to contribute to any effort that would alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees inside and outside their country.
Al-Falahi said the UAE Red Crescent had helped around 45,000 Syrian families in Jordan and Lebanon and that they are co-ordinating with Turkey's Red Crescent to help refugees in Turkey.
The Secretary-General of the Jordanian charity authority, Ayman Al-Mefleh agrees that Kuwait is playing a major role in assisting refugees.
Al-Mefleh says co-ordination between Kuwait and Jordan resulted in the construction of 100 housing units in the Al-Zaatari refugee camp.
Target is to raise US$ 1.5 bn
Kuwait hopes the ``purely humantarian’’ International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria will raise US$ 1.5 billion to assist the Syrian people in light of increasing number of victims and significant shortage of funds for relief supplies.
``The goal of the conference is to mobilize USD 1.5 billion of financial resources to assist (Syrian) refugees and internally displaced Syrians for the next six months,’’ Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah told a news conference.
He says there is a significant shortfall in funding for humanitarian supplies, needed by the UN bearing in mind the harsh winter conditions.
``The aims of this conference are purely humanitarian in nature and as it seeks to mobilize resources that will enable the UN and its agencies to respond to the humanitarian needs of Syria and its neighbouring countries,’’ said Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled.
The foreign minister said that as much as the January 30 conference aimed at sending a message of solidarity and effective partnership between regional inter-governmental organizations and specialized agencies, "it also underscores the need for a comprehensive global response to all those affected by humanitarian crises".
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled noted that high-level delegations from 59 countries are expected to attend the conference, as well as 13 UN agencies, four regional organizations, the international Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, and 17 NGOs.
The Kuwaiti foreign minister said his country was ready to host the conference in line with its position to helping the Syrian people.
Asked about coordination with the coalition of forces of the Syrian revolution, Sheikh Sabah said the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was the first to recognise the coalition.
Sheikh Sabah said it would up to the donor countries to decide how to channel their financial assistance to the Syrian opposition.
He said the humanitarian aid section in the UN Secretary General's office would follow up the pledges of countries and NGOs.
"We are confident all countries which announce their pledges will honour their commitments because they are convinced in the needs of the Syrian people and the importance of alleviating their suffering," he said.
Sheikh Sabah commended Saudi Arabia's contributions to honouring the pressing needs of the Syrian people.
The Kuwaiti top diplomat confirmed that Iranian deputy foreign minister would represent the Islamic Republic to the pledging conference.
Sheikh Sabah underlined the important role of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to preserving international peace and security.
He hoped UN-Arab League special representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi's meeting with representatives of the UNSC’s five permanent member countries in New York, would result in an agreement that would end the almost two-year-old Syrian conflict while taking into account the Syrian people's aspirations.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled warned against Syria slipping further into a civil war "because the danger is not only affecting our Syrian brothers but will have lethal and dangerous consequences on the entire region.
"We are keen on having a solution that allows the Syrian people draw their own future ... This is the solution that prevents the anticipated crisis," he said.
Kuwait is acting in two parallel directions, said the Kuwaiti foreign minister, supporting a political solution in Syria that meets the needs of the Syrian people, and offering urgent relief aid for the Syrian people.
Arab foreign ministers held an extraordinary meeting in Cairo at the request of Lebanon on January 13 to examine the urgent needs of Syrian refugees. The foreign ministers assigned a team to visit Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq to see their needs.
Sheikh Sabah said Arab League secretary general Nabil Al-Araby would brief the Pledging Conference on its findings. The attendance of King Abdullah II of Jordan and Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman, he added, would allow further interaction over the same issue.
The Kuwaiti official said His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah would announce Kuwait’s pledge tomorrow.
Asked about the Palestinian refugees in Al-Yarmouk camp in Syria, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said they have met with Ban and the UNRWA chief who talked about difficulties in serving Palestinian refugees, part of them have fled to Lebanon fearing the hostilities in Syria.
OIC calls for supporting humanitarian aid
Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Ambassador Atta Al-Mannan Bikhit, stressed on Tuesday on the importance of supporting humanitarian work for the Syrian refugees.
Ambassador Bikhit said during his speech to the Conference of the Non-governmental Organization donors that the conference, and the following International Humanitarian Pledging Conference, were an opportunity to join forces in aiding refugees.
``The international donors conference … is of high importance, due to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria ..."
He added that the conference is an assurance of Kuwait's continuous role in support of all humanitarian crisis around the world, which led to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's decision to assign Dr. Abdullah Maatouq as envoy for humanitarian affairs.
He stated: "The Syrian crisis is developing severely as in last March more than one million displaced Syrians in need of humanitarian aid, and in less than a year the number increased to 4.5 million, in addition to more than 600, 000 refugees in neighboring countries." Added to that, aid is needed in Syria due to the difficulty of humanitarian aid reaching those in need.
Ambassador Bikhit asserted on the importance of the international community "seeking practical ways to present humanitarian aid for those displaced in Syria, and additional facilitations by humanitarian organizations to work there under protected conditions to reach those in need’’.
He called for co-ordination among international and Islamic organisations and countries sheltering refugees to lessen the suffering of the Syrian people.