London prepares for Syria donor conference as peace talks continue

1 Feb 16

Against the backdrop of tentative peace talks, donors and the humanitarian community are preparing for a major conference on the Syrian crisis later this week.

 

The Supporting Syria and the Region Conference will see world leaders and other members of the international community convene in London on Thursday to discuss how to deal one of the world’s largest humanitarian disasters. Meanwhile, further discord has been brewing among parties at tense peace talks in Geneva following suicide bombings near a shrine in Damascus.

The United Nations-backed talks to end the five-year conflict kicked off on Friday after a week of delays and much uncertainty. Six months of talks are already planned, originally centred on securing a ceasefire and later turning towards finding a political solution that will hinge largely on the future of president Bashar al-Assad – a major sticking point.

Previous peace talks, held in Geneva two years ago, collapsed without any progress. This time round, the UN special envoy will mediate between the two parties to build more common ground before they meet to prevent this happening again.

Opposition negotiators insisted on Sunday they will not enter into any negotiations until a UN security council resolution demands all parties allow aid access, end sieges, release detainees and stop targeting civilian areas.

As this long, difficult and fragile peace process begins, the international community prepares to meet in London to coordinate a strong response to the massive humanitarian fallout of the war.

The UN Development Programme has appealed for $482m in 2016 to fund its work in Syria and the wider region over the course of the year. As well as focusing on the resilience and livelihoods of people in Syria, it will also support refugees and host communities in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

The UNDP requires $62m to improve food security, strengthen service delivery, promote grass roots economic activity, boost job creation and small businesses and remove solid waste and debris inside Syria.

A further $420m is needed to provide basic services, strengthen national and local capacity, boost livelihoods and foster social stabilities in neighbouring countries who are struggling to host record numbers of refugees.

The UNDP’s appeal is part of a wider appeal from the humanitarian community for $5.78bn to fund the total response to the crisis in Syria and surrounding region over 2016.

Thursday’s conference is seen a key opportunity to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development approaches to boost resilience in the region.

“Conventional approaches of ‘relief now, development later’ do not work in response to the Syria crisis or other similar protracted crisis,” noted UNDP administrator Helen Clark.

The UK, who will host this week’s conference, has also announced that it will extend its commitment to match all British donations to UNICEF UK’s Syria winter appeal until the end of 2016 – a pledge that was set to expire yesterday.

UK international development secretary Justine Greening called on world leaders to use Thursday’s conference to ensure that all children caught up in the Syrian crisis do not miss out on an education.

Oxfam also urged international donors to step up “flatlining” support for the crisis. The NGO’s most recent calculations indicate that most countries still fall far short of donating funding or offering resettlement places, and last year just over half of the money appealed for to help those in Syria and the region was delivered.

While Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK give generously, Oxfam’s report said major donors like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US have not done enough. Australia, France and Russia are also lagging behind. The UK, Netherlands, Spain and France could also host more refugees, Oxfam said. 

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