a group photo with HH the Amir at Bayan Palace
DONORS MEET $1.5bn AID TARGET FOR STRICKEN Amir pledges $300m for Syrian people

KUWAIT CITY, January 30: Kuwait hosted the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, successfully responding to and surpassing a bid from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to raise $1.5 billion.

This came as a response to calls from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to hold a high-level International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, in light of the tragic and deeply adverse circumstances the Syrian people have faced over the past 22 months due to the ongoing conflict, which has seen over 60,000 dead and 700,000 refugees.

The conference was opened on Wednesday morning amidst consensus from world leaders and representatives alike of the pressing importance of assisting the Syrian people at this time of dire need and conflict, and providing them with a means to gain basic rights and livable conditions.

The $1.5 billion target was met and surpassed during the conference, with Kuwait opening with a bid of $300 million, which was then matched by the UAE and KSA, whilst the US President Obama had previously announced a pledge of $155 million, in addition to 50 million GBP ($79 million) from the UK, $20 million from Bahrain, a total of 100 million Euros from the EU, and over $180 million from humanitarian organizations and NGOs.

H.H. the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber AL-Sabah opened the conference, with a pledge from Kuwait of $300 million in his opening statement, thanking the heads of states and representatives present, as well as Secretary General and Undersecretary Valerie Amos for calling forth this high-level International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, and stating, “This meeting is convened in the context of the vigorous international efforts to help in alleviating the humanitarian suffering of the brotherly syrian people, in light of a crisis that has been going on for more than twenty two months now.”

“While we note that the Secretary General of the UN, following the increasing complexity and gravity of the developments in Syria, appointed HE Kofi Annan and HE Lakhdar Brahimi as his senior representatives, and that this appointment was also adopted by the Arab League to make them both Arab and UN envoys, we deeply regret the lack of success of all their sincere efforts and his ideas and plans,” he noted.

Also adding, “We were terrified by the latest report of the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights, which confirmed that more than sixty thousand innocent victims have fallen dead, and that the number of missing persons, detainees and injured ave multiplied , in addition to more than 600,000 refugees in the neighboring countries, who are suffering tragic living conditions.

“The State of Kuwait, its Government and people, have not spared any effort, since the eruption of the crisis in Syria to provide humanitarian aid to the brotherly Syrian people. it has also taken every measure to support them inside and outside Syria, by Kuwaiti Associations specializing in relief and medical work. The total amount of contributions provided is almost 60 million dollars.

“In view of the tragic conditions that our Syrian brothers suffer from and stemming from our belief in the importance and the need to see the workings of this international gathering succeed, it is my pleasure to announce the contribution of the Sate of Kuwait in the amount of $300 million to support the humanitarian situation of the Syrian people.”

HH the Amir was followed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who began by thanking HH the Amir and Kuwait for their generous gestures in hosting the conference, and the significant pledge that opened up the conference, stressing the importance of supporting the Syrian peoples in light of the escalating direness of circumstances they are facing, from within and without Syria.

Ban Ki-moon also commended the generosity of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq in particular for hosting and supporting the large numbers of Syrian refugees that have left the country, noting that 10% of Syrians have been internally displaced, whilst over 700,000 have fled the country altogether.

“I saw some of the effects of the crisis when i visited [camps in Turkey and Jordan]. I saw children who just wanted to go to school again and play with their friends. I told them that the entire international community stands with them Today we must make good on this promise,” added Ban, calling on the Syrian government to stop the violence, and stressing the importance of finding a political solution.
“For years Syria was known for its generous support for those in need. Until recently, Syria was the third largest host to refugees, including more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees and 63,000 Iraqi refugees. Now, these displaced people re at the highest risk of being displaced once again,” he added.

UN Under-secretary General Valerie Amos,then provided a short presentation of the various efforts of the UN in Syria, stating that upon her visit three days ago, which constituted her fourth visit to Syria within the past year, she observed that the security situation is in sharp decline, with about half of the hospitals and a quarter of the schools damaged, and a distinct shortage in vaccinations.

“Today we are appealing for $1.5 billion. $519 million of this is for work in 10 sectors inside Syria to meet the essential needs of Syrians affected by the crisis,” added Amos, announcing that approximately 80% of the 500,000 Palestinian refugees are in need of humanitarian assistance, pointing to the dire circumstances of the Yarmouk camp in Syria.

Amos also stressed the importance of a political resolution to the ongoing conflict, calling on any government or organization with nay influence or ties to either the Syrian government or opposition to push for a resolution.

UN High Comissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres provided a detailed report of the situation of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, noting that at the beginning of the criss, the UN had registered 33,000 refugees, and that the current number of refugees had risen now to 712,000.

Of these, he stated that 230,000 had fled to Lebanon, 330,000 to Jordan, and that the numbers are constantly increasing, noting that 55 international organizations had come together for the purpose of coordinating the aid for the refugees.

King Abdullah II of Jordan followed, praising Kuwait for its generous donation, and Ban Ki-moon for calling for this high-level conference and called for the establishment of an ongoing fund to continuously support all refugees in the face of crisis.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman then took the floor, thanking Kuwait’s generous donation, and maintaining that, despite the depleting resources in Lebanon due to the increasing influx of refugees and the continuing struggle, Lebanon was committed to ensuring that its doors remain open for Syrian refugees, citing the joint suffering of the Lebanese and Palestinians due to Israel’s refusal of the Palestinians’ right to return.

He urged the international community to share Lebanon’s burdens and meet the calls of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, noting that the Lebanese government had adopted a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the refugees.

Further, Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Depty Supreme Commander Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa announced Bahrain’s pledge of $20 million, affirming their commitment to the humanitarian cause in Syria.

Kuwait’s substantive pledge of $300 million was met by the UAE, when their Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan also announced a $300 million pledge, stating that “Since the outset of the events in Syria, the UAE has lived up to their responsibility to offer aid and relief and supplies for the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries,” noting that above all the struggle in Syria calls for humanitarian and moral response from the international community.

Representing the UK, MP Justine Greening stated that “The United Kingdom Pledges 50 million GBP as a measure of our unwavering support for the UN appeals. This is in addition to the finding 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 GBP.”

On the sidelines of the conference, in a statement to the press, Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian stated that Iran supports the Syrian people, claiming that both the Syrian government and the opposition have been subjected to terrorism, and that terrorist groups have been targeting the electrical stations and foundational structures of Syria, adding that these terrorist groups do not represent the true opposition of Syria.

He expressed condemnation for states that have allegedly been supporting these terrorist groups, noting that states, such as the US, in providing weapons to said “terrorists” are exacerbating the bloodshed. He noted that Iran commends the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, stating the Bashar Al-Assad’s suggested political solution is in keeping with the direction that the international community is taking.
He stated that though the international community’s response to the crisis came late, it was nonetheless welcome, and that Iran was committed to providing aid from the beginning of the crisis, and has donated $200 million in aid — though the channels through which this was done remain unclear.

Concerning Iran’s position in not hosting any refugees, he stated that Syrian refugees fled to neighboring countries, and that Iran has been treating injured Syrians from the beginning of the conflict. He added that Iran condemns violence from any side, adding that this violence came at the hands of the previously mentioned terrorist groups.

Following this, in a statement to the press, UN Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syrian Refugees Panos Moumtzis affirmed his satisfaction at the numbers present in the conference, which reflect the importance of the cause, noting that at least 3-5 thousand refugees are fleeing Syria every day, and that it is the UNHCR’s job to be present at the borders to intercept these refugees, adding that 1 billion of the total sum is required for support for the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

Regarding the aid reaching the areas of Syria over which the Free Syrian Army has control, Moumtzis stated that the UN is in communication with everyone and coordinates and cooperates to deliver aid to all parts of Syria as needed. Conversely, regarding whether coordination with the Syrian government prevents distribution to all parts of Syria, Moumtzis stated that this coordination is necessary, and that aid is distributed all over Syria according to coordination with all necessary fronts.

In a statement to the media, Saudi Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf stated that Saudi Arabia has continuously been providing aid to Syria through various institutions, amounting in total to $345 million, and confirming that the KSA has pledged $300 million for the purpose of this conference.

From his end, HE the Minister of Information Sheikh Salman Al-Homoud confirmed that the conference was met with great success, in particular with regards to the level of representation present at the conference and affirming that the conference had reached its goals. With regards to the Press and Publication law, he stated that there is a unified project proposed by the Ministry, and that there will be amendments to the laws concerned visual and audio media to establish further freedom, maintaining that Kuwait takes pride in its freedom of press and its media outlets on an international level.

Upon concluding the conference, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, held a press conference, announcing the success in meeting Ban’s bid.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid expressed his thanks and gladness at having surpassed the $1.5 billion target, emphasizing that the conference was held for purely humanitarian purposes, and thanking all of the donor states for their generosity. He called upon the states that had as yet to donate to do so in the future, as the conflict in Syria is ongoing and will require continuous aid once the designated six month period until this June is concluded.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon followed, stating that “Today, under the leadership of HH the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, the international community has come together in solidarity with Syria,” expressing deep thanks to HH the Amir for his generous donation, and stating that he hoped this would inspire further generosity on the part of others.

“Today we sent them a message of hope,... [and] the UN will ensure that these in the most effective way possible,” adding that as the UN searches for political solutions to the situation in Syria, the international community must not forget the humanitarian aspect of the conflict. He noted that the humanitarian operation in Syria starts with Syrians themselves, citing the UN agencies coordination with local humanitarian workers, and added that nearly half the aid goes to areas controlled by the opposition.

Regarding the position of the Security Council and their failure to resolve the struggle, Ban stated that the UN has worked hard to coordinate with the international community, and urged member states in the Security Council to move past differences to find a solution, but emphasized that the major responsibility in this situation rests on the Syrian regime, calling upon Bashar Al-Assad personally to “listen to the voices of the thousands of people whose [families] have been killed. He also affirmed that there should not be a military solution to the crisis, but a political one.

Regarding the position of neighboring countries’ intervention, Ban stated that the Syrian crisis affects the entire international community and  not simply affect neighboring countries, but called on neighbouring countries specifically to continue to keep their borders open and to stand by the Syrian people.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s statement concluded the proceedings on the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which has reached its aim of providing displaced Syrians and refugees with the aid they need to survive for the remaining six months, whilst the conflict persists, claiming lives every day, and resulting in 3 to 5 thousand Syrians fleeing the country on a daily basis, with no signs of letting up soon.

Agencies add
UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos Wednesday denied that part of the aid money raised for war-hit Syrians goes to the regime, but agreed that several rebel-held areas were still out of reach.
“It’s not true. We are working with a number of partners on the ground. There is no money going directly to the government,” Amos told reporters on the sidelines of an international donors conference on Syria held in Kuwait City.

International medical charity group Medcins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has criticised the current international aid system which it said is “not being distributed equally between government and opposition controlled areas.”

“The areas under government control receive nearly all international aid, while opposition-held zones receive only a tiny share,” the group said late Tuesday, putting the number of Syrians living in opposition-held areas at around seven million.

The Syrian regime tightly monitors aid groups it authorises to work on its soil.

Amos said the distribution of aid has met great difficulties because of the security situation inside the country, and acknowledged that the world body has been unable to reach all opposition-controlled areas.
“There have been parts of Syria that we have not been able to reach. We all regret that and we need to do more working with the groups on the ground, particularly the opposition groups,” she said.

Amos said that about 48 percent of the food aid was delivered to “opposition-controlled and disputed areas.”

International donors at Wednesday’s Kuwait conference pledged almost $1 billion in aid for stricken Syrians, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned of a “catastrophic” situation in their war-torn country.

The funds raised are expected to provide aid to around five million Syrians affected by their country’s 22-month conflict.



By: Joana Saba Arab Times Staff

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