More than $1.5 billion pledged to help Syrian refugees
Donors conference in Kuwait turns into
a cry for conscience and peace in Syria
Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday pledged $300 million for the Syrian people and appealed for UN Security Council members to overcome their “disappointing” positions and end the refugees’ suffering.
Speaking as the conference host, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said Security Council members should overcome their differences and end the daily suffering of the Syrian people.
“The UN and particularly the Security Council, which is the body commissioned with the conservation of international peace and security, are required, after almost two years have passed since the beginning of the crisis, to hurry to unite their ranks and overcome some of the disappointing positions to find a quick solution for this tragedy,” said Sheikh Sabah.
Council members should “put in their minds the daily suffering of the Syrian people and the pain of refugees and dislocated in their conscience while discussing the developments of this human tragedy and put any other considerations aside when making their decisions, as history will stand judgement on the Security Council’s role in this tragedy,” said the Amir of Kuwait.
Sheikh Sabah said Kuwait had not spared any effort since the conflict began in providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. He noted that Kuwaiti associations that specialise in relief and medical work contributed some US$ 60 million to help alleviate suffering.
His Highness also regretted the failure of the international envoys to end the Syrian conflict. The UN appointed former Secretary General Kofi Annan as a special representative of the UN and Arab League but he resigned after his mediations reached a dead-end. The UN then appointed Lakhdar Brahimi as special envoy.
The veteran Algerian diplomat is still working on bridging the gaps between UN Security Council members to end the conflict.
“We deeply regret the lack of success of all their sincere efforts and … ideas and plans, which if approved would have stopped the suffering and pain of the Syrian people and its escalation to this horrible level that we are currently witnessing,” said the Kuwaiti Amir.
Sheikh Sabah said the conference was being held at a time when the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria had escalated. “The numbers of dead are multiplying and destruction has become the main feature of every neighbourhood in Syria, without exception,” he said.
Sheikh Sabah said “we follow with total sadness and sorrow” the bloody developments in Syria which was not only undermining the security and territorial integrity of Syria and its people but the security and stability of the region.
“We were terrified by the latest report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which confirmed that more than 60,000 innocent victims - men, women and children - are dead, and that the numbers of missing persons, detainees and injured have multiplied and reached several hundred thousands, in addition to more than 600,000 refugees in neighbouring countries, who are suffering under harsh weather conditions,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are now in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Sheikh Sabbah praised those countries for their giant humanitarian service. The Amir of Kuwait called for the coordination of provision of relief supplies for the refugees, inside and outside their country.
He noted that a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that the farming sector in Syria has been devastated and its reconstruction would take a very long time. He said Syria’s wheat production was damaged by 50 percent and farmers were suffering from lack of security and fuel.
This, added the Kuwaiti Amir, should compel the international community to work by full force to stop the bloodshed.
Saudi, UAE and Kuwait pledge $300m each
Saudi Arabia pledged on Wednesday to provide $300 million to help fund humanitarian efforts. The announcement was made by the Kingdom’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf at the donor conference in Kuwait.
Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE) also pledged $300 million each.
“Due to the great suffering of the Syrian people and to help ensure the success of the conference, I announce the Kuwaiti donation of $300 million for the Syrian people,” Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said as he opened the one-day conference in Kuwait City.
UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said since the start of the crisis the UAE was committed to providing relief for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Relief efforts face problems inside Syria
While international aid channels are open to refugee camps in places such as Turkey and Jordan, there is far more limited capacity to organise relief efforts inside Syria because of the fighting and obstacles from Assad’s regime.
Paris-based Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, said the UN and others need to open more routes for aid to reach rebel-held areas, which now receive only a “tiny share” of international humanitarian help.
“The current aid system is unable to address the worsening living conditions facing people who live inside Syria,” MSF president Marie-Pierre Allie said in a statement.
The escalating hardships in camps outside Syria also can be used by Assad’s government as potential fodder in its claims that rebels are responsible for the country’s collapse, said Fawaz Gerges, head of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics.
“The misery of the refugees, their suffering in neighbouring countries, provide the ammunition for Assad, who is saying to them, ‘See, you have no one else but your country, so come home’,” Gerges said.
Gulf nations have answered calls to boost humanitarian aid for Syria
Gulf nations have answered calls to boost humanitarian aid for Syria with $1.5 billion in pledges on Wednesday even as more refugees poured into neighbouring Jordan and its leader warned resources were strained to the limit, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said
“We exceeded the target” of the conference, Ban said at the close of the one-day International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City.
In making UAE’s pledge, General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said: “The UAE, as per the directives of the President, His Highness Shaeikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, initiated humanitarian work since the beginning of the events in Syria, to fulfil its responsibilities in providing relief to the Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.”
“The UAE has participated in all efforts to help the Syrian people and supported Arab and international initiatives aimed at putting an end to the tragedy and suffering as well as achieving their legitimate aspirations in a free and decent life,” he said.
General Shaikh Mohammed led the UAE delegation which included Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister; and Dr Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs.
Referring to the horrific events in Syria and the human tragedy that followed, Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said it was “immense and terrible” by all accounts and that the “daily destruction in Syria has stirred human emotions and put a great challenge to the international conscience”.
“The plight of civilians in Syria is a test for the legitimate, humanitarian and moral responsibility of the international community to secure protection for them,” he added.
He stressed the importance of rallying international and regional efforts to secure the humanitarian needs of the refugees, providing immediate relief that can reach eligible refugees and others affected by the extreme cold this winter.
He thanked the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, for his generous initiative and his organisation of the conference, noting his personal efforts in the humanitarian field and assisting the needy.
He praised the role of the UN Secretary-General in calling for the conference and his relentless efforts in rallying international support to secure the needs of the Syrian people.
“The grave responsibility of the international community in rescue of the Syrian people comes from its legitimate, humanitarian and moral commitments. Now is the time to fulfil these commitments,” Gen. Shaikh Mohammed said.
Shaikh Abdullah said UAE assistance to the Syria people will be given directly and under Emirati supervision, and not by another party.
The $1.5 billion pledged in immediate aid is only expected to cover the coming months, highlighting the massive burden in coping with Syria’s civil war and its spillover in the region.
The pledges also will likely face close scrutiny on how quickly the money will reach over-stretched aid groups directed by the UN. and other agencies. Officials in Egypt and elsewhere have complained that many generous international offers for help after the Arab Spring upheavals have not yet materialised.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the gathering by calling for an end to the fighting “in the name of humanity” yet noted that the fighting shows no signs of easing and that crisises such as the refugee exodus to places such as Turkey and Jordan could intensify.
Jordan’s economic council said the country was already near breaking point.
The kingdom has spent more than $833 billion on aid for refugees — accounting for nearly half the estimated 700,000 people who fled Syria — and that it was unable to sustain a financial burden that has so far siphoned off about 3 per cent of its GDP.
Some UN officials say the refugee figures could approach 1 million this year if the conflict does not ease.
Speaking at the Kuwait conference, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said sheltering and assisting the refugee wave was above the country’s “capacity and potential.”.
“We have reached the end of the line. We have exhausted our resources,” he said.
Last week, the king amplified his appeal for international help at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying “the weakest refugees are struggling now just to survive this year’s harsh winter” and up to 3000 a day are still crossing the Syria-Jordan border.
Ban urged all sides “and particularly the Syrian government” to halt attacks in the 22-month-old civil war that the UN says has claimed more than 60,000 lives.
“In the name of humanity, stop the killing, stop the violence,” Ban told envoys from nearly 60 nations, including Russia and Iran, key allies of Assad’s regime.
Aid officials estimate that more than 2 million Syrians have been uprooted or are suffering inside the country as the conflict widens — including what peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called “unprecedented levels of horror” in an address to the UN Security Council after at least 65 bodies were found on Tuesday in a suspected execution-style killing near Aleppo.
Before the donors conference, Ban described the international humanitarian response to Syria as “very much limited” in comments to the official Kuwaiti News Agency.
But the meeting leveraged more pledges. Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, promised $300 million which was quickly matched by Gulf partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are all major backers of Syrian rebel factions. On Tuesday, the European Union and the US promised nearly $300 million.
The head of the US delegation, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard, lauded the donations from Gulf nations which often bankroll their own aid efforts but are not traditional top donors to UN programs. She noted, however, that the funds are only to deal with immediate needs over the coming months.
“It’s good for now but predictions are that it’s not going to be over soon,” said Ms Richard, who deals with refugee and migration affairs.
Mr Ban described the situation in Syria as “catastrophic and getting worse by the day”.
World adds their support
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahmed said: “We are present here to express support to the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, arising out of the continuous violence and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria.”
He referred to the importance of Syrian in the Middle East, and its active role in the peace process, therefore instability in the country would have serious outcomes for the region.
“India is committed to extend sympathy and support to the Syrian people. I am glad to announce at the conference that my government pledges $2.5 million towards humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria in the form of medicine, food and other essential items …”
Meanwhile, China’s Ambassador, Cui Jianchun, called upon the international community to pledge aid to the Syrian people to help them during such difficult times. He said his country had presented, through the International Committee of the Red Cross, $2 million and urgent humanitarian aid for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan worth $4.8 million.
The ambassador also said that his country will present US$1 million in urgent aid for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and $200,000 for the International Organisation for Migration (ION) in Turkey and Jordan.
Brazil pledged $250,000 for UNHCR activities to help the Syrian people. Carlos Ricardo, director of the Middle East department at the foreign ministry, said that Brazil in the past had donated three instalments of $120,000 for UNHCR activities in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Mr Ricardo said during this winter over four million people in Syria were in need of assistance with the number of internally displaced persons exceeding two million.
“We must provide the UN system with the necessary resources for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to mitigate this tragedy,” he said,and added that it was equally important that all sides in the conflict allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need.
Brazil, said Mr Ricardo, supported UN/Arab League special representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi’s efforts to end the bloodshed.
The EU and other European countries announced here on Wednesday their commitment to Syrians displaced by nearly two years of fighting with some making renewed pledges to support efforts to find peace.
EU Commissioner for International Co-operation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, expressed on Wednesday her deep sorrow for the situation in Syria.
She said that no political solution was in sight and feared that, for the Syrian people, the worst was to come.
“This is why it is crucial today for all of us, who have the means to help, to do our best, to give generously in support of the Syrian people,” she said during the conference.
``We in Europe are always firmly on the side of the most vulnerable people; this is why we have been in Syria since the civil war began. We have already provided US$ 460 million, more than half of all humanitarian assistance – US$ 134 million from the European Commission and US$ 326 million from our member states,” she said.
“For the first months of 2013 we pledge US$ 370 million, US$ 136 million from the European Commission, US$ 234 million from member states, with the most notable pledges from the UK, Italy, Sweden and Germany. This does not include other sources of funding such as economic support for countries in the region or special measures for Syrian civil society, which amounts to more than US$ 240 million per year,” she added.
UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening told the conference: “The United Kingdom pledges £50 million (US$ 79 million) as a measure of our unwavering support for the UN appeals”.
“This is in addition to the funding I announced in Jordan on Saturday, and represents a doubling of our humanitarian support for Syria and the region – a total of £139.5 million (US$ 219 million).
Greening also stressed the need to secure the basic needs of Syrians caught up in the fighting.
“We must ensure they are warm, sheltered and fed until they feel safe enough to return home. We must ensure co-ordinated humanitarian aid reaches the Syrian people by all available routes, including agreed cross-line and cross-border work.
“We need to support the refugees that have sought sanctuary outside of Syria, and ensure host countries are able to maintain their tremendous generosity and keep their borders open,” she said.
A French delegation announced a new combined pledge to international humanitarian efforts of €7.4 million ($10 million). The amount is being distributed through three channels, namely €3.5 million to the UN response plan – the UNHCR and World Food Program – International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian relief organisations.
Denmark, represented by Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach, said his country would pledge US$ 10 million, adding to US$ 27.5 million already granted in 2012.
``Denmark will give US$ 10 million so that the total Danish contribution to date will reach US$ 37.5 million. We stand ready to consider additional contributions,” he said.
Finland's acting Charge d'Affaires of its Embassy in Syria, Liisa Maunul, who led her country's delegation at the meeting, pledged €3.5 million (around US$ 4.74 million).
The amount will be channelled through the UNHCR Syria regional response plan (EUR one million), the World Food Program (EUR one million), the International Committee of the Red Cross (EUR 1.25 million), and Finland-based non-governmental humanitarian organization Finn Church Aid (FCA) (EUR 250, 000), she noted.
Bulgaria, represented by its Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov, said they would pledge €150,000 (around US$ 203,250) to the Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan. The amount adds to contributions Bulgaria made last year worth €100,000 to the UNHCR Revised Regional Plan for Syria.
Slovenia's Foreign Ministry State Secretary Dr. Bozo Cerar said his country would give €30,000 (US$ 40,660) to the International Committee of the Red Cross following an earlier contribution of €60,000 in October 2012 “in support of UNHCR efforts to assist the internally displaced persons and refugees in neighboring countries,’’ he said.
Manuel Bessler, Swiss vice-Director for Humanitarian Aid, commended Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for hosting the Syrian refugees and their policy of open borders.
``We need more resources to cover the constantly increasing needs, not only in Syria but also for burden sharing with the neighbouring states,’’ he said.
Bessler noted that Switzerland allocated 20 million francs (around US$ 22 million) for the protection and humanitarian assistance.
He recalled that Switzerland, supported by 57 UN member states, had recently called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court
Arab, Western countries highlight humanitarian crisis
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said Wednesday that Kuwait had built one of the pillars of its foreign policy on the principles of co-operation, solidarity and collaboration, and which has always adopted Arab causes, highlighting steps taken by the Kuwaiti leadership to help it get out of its ordeals and support its stability, growth and prosperity.
The Lebanese President's statements came during his participation in the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, hosted by Kuwait.
Mr Sleiman called for a speedy solution to the issue of the Syrian refugee influx into the country.
``Lebanon has sought in the past months to provide assistance to Syrian refugees despite its limited capabilities. However, the country needs help in hosting the refugees," he said.
Adding that although the influx of refugees is expected to increase, the government will keep the border open to those seeking shelter in Lebanon. "The border will remain open to refugees," he assured conference delegates.
He also called for the help of Arab countries in hosting refugees because his country cannot contain all the refugees alone.
``We ask the Arab countries to share the hosting of refugees, not because we want them deported, but after we get the consent of refugees themselves and the Arab countries," said Sleiman.
He indicated that his government had approved a US$ 370 million comprehensive plan for the refugees. He said, US$180 million will be allocated to Lebanese state institutions while US$ 190 million will be distributed to international agencies.
Meanwhile, Algerian Parliament Speaker, Abdulqadir Bin Saleh, thanked the State of Kuwait and His Highness the Amir for hosting this conference, and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his humanitarian call in aid of Syria.
``Algeria praises this conference which is a great call for the international community to support the Syrian people,’’ he said.
He added that the refugees’ status is deteriorating, and the number of deaths and displaced are also increasing. Algeria had received 18,000 Syrian refugees, and provided them with shelter and assimilated students into schools and colleges.
``The Syrian crisis calls for extreme efforts to contain the situation and obtain peace and stability. Algeria calls upon all Syrian sides to stop the bloodshed and seek peace.’’
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki praised Kuwait’s pledge to Syria and Kuwaiti humanitarian relief efforts and support.
The president told the conference that his country, despite the difficult transitional stage it went through, last year embraced more than 1 million Libyan refugees, and currently hosts 2000 Syrian refugees, in addition to sending two planes of aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey.
He stressed that his country is ready to join all efforts, calling for the greatest possible pledges for the Syrian people.
He stressed the necessity for immediate action to stop the bloodshed in Syria through pressure on the regime.
The head of the Qatari delegation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Khalid Bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah said that "the high-level participation in the conference, itself is an indication of the extent of suffering of the Syrian people".
Dr. Al-Attiyah praised the efforts of Syria’s neighbouring countries, which has provided everything they can to aid refugees, explaining that “the burden and urgent requirements necessary for these refugees, food, medicine and shelter (are) beyond the capacity of some of these countries to meet them fully”.
He noted that the value of humanitarian donations set by the Qatari government for the Syrian people have exceeded US$ 326 million, submitted by charities in Qatar and the Qatari Red Crescent relief assistance for refugees in neighbouring countries.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Al-Sadeq Abdulkareem called on the international community to end the suffering of the Syrian people, to allow them build their modern, free and democratic country.
Abdulkareem said the international community should act to guarantee the unity, independence and sovereignty of Syria and that the Syrian people have the right to determine their own destiny and build their civil and democratic state.
He said the conflict in Syria was of a conflict between culture, pride, freedom, democracy and human rights on one hand, and tyranny and totalitarianism on the other.
Luxembourg's Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said aid "should be based on humanitarian principles, neutrality and independence". He told the conference that aid should be delivered to everybody regardless of political beliefs and called for the protection of aid workers.
Asselborn said the tragic situation in Syria was worsening, directly affecting civilians, infrastructure, hospitals and schools.
Asselborn called on all fighting parties in Syria to respect international law and to make sure relief supplies and medical aid reached the needy.
Messages to the Amir
From the Crown Prince of Kuwait
HH Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received on Wednesday a cable of congratulations from HH Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in which he congratulated him on the success of the donors conference.
“On behalf of myself and the Kuwaiti people, we highly praise your Highness' humanitarian initiative aimed at alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people in response to the call of the world community represented by the UN Secretary General who has exerted tremendous efforts in this respect,’’ HH the Crown Prince said.
“Your Highness' initiative to host the conference and your keenness on providing means of success is an addition to brighten Kuwait's humanitarian side,’’ he added.
HH the Amir thanked HH the Crown Prince for his sincere feelings, praising the tremendous efforts exerted by the organising committee in making this international gathering a success.
HH Amir thanks organisers
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent cables of thanks on Wednesday to His Highness Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, Chief of National Guard, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Deputy Chief of National Guard, His Highness Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister, Sheikh Ahmed Humoud Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs and Sheikh Ahmad Khaled Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
His Highness the Amir also sent cables of thanks to Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mustafa Jassim Al-Shimali, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs, Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Humoud Al-Sabah, Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Abdul Aziz Abdul Latif Al-Ibrahim, Minister of Electricity and Water and Minister of Public Works, Dr. Mohammed Barrak Al-Haifi, Health Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs and Chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee of the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria.
His Highness the Amir expressed deep thanks and appreciation to all ministries and government agencies participating in preparations for the international conference for their efforts which highly contributed to the success of the conference and showed a civilized image of the homeland.
Kuwait PM praises HH Amir, Crown Prince
In a cable to His Highness Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah congratulated the Kuwaiti leaders for the success of the conference.
On behalf of the government, Sheikh Jaber congratulated HH Sheikh Sabah and HH Sheikh Nawaf on the success of the conference which succeeded in pledging over US$ 1.5 billion to help the Syrian people face ``the tragic and disasterous circumstances they are witnessing’’.
The initiative of the Kuwaiti Amir to host the conference "and your keenness on providing means of success is an addition to brighten Kuwait's humanitarian side’’, said Sheikh Jaber.
The conference, he added, reflected Sheikh Sabah's leading role at the international level and showed the spirit of responsibility and humanitarian values of the Kuwaiti leader.
Sheikh Jaber noted Sheikh Sabah's call upon the UN Security Council to find a rapid solution to the humanitarian crisis and end the daily suffering of the Syrian people.
The Prime Minister highly appreciated the positive contribution of heads of state and government, delegates and organisations at the conference, as well as efforts of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Kuwait Speaker’s message
National Assembly Speaker Ali Fahad Al-Rashed Wednesday congratulated His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for the success of the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, as pledges exceeded the US$ 1.5 billion target set by the UN.
Al-Rashed congratulated the Amir for the success of the one-day conference which resulted from Sheikh Sabah's “vast political experience”. The success is an added value ofr Kuwait's humanitarian and charitable action not only at the Arab and Islamic level but worldwide, said Al-Rashed.
The house speaker sent a similar message to HH Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.