Kuwait II Conference side event:

Sima Bahous: How neighbouring countries are responding to the Syria crisis: Resilience, stabilization & solidarity

15 Jan 2014

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Opening Remarks

Dr. Sima Bahous
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General,
Assistant Administrator and Director of
Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme
Chair, Arab States / Middle East and North Africa Regional United Nations Development Group
Kuwait City, Kuwait

Our Excellency Dr. Ibrahim Saif, Minister of Planning and International cooperation of Jordan
Your Excellency Dr. Abdallah Al-Matouk, UN Secretary General’s Humanitarian Envoy for Kuwait
Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors, friends and colleagues,

I am pleased to welcome you to this important event in my capacity as Chair of Arab States/Middle East and North Africa Regional United Nations Development Group (R-UNDG). Today we will be presented with an overview of the National Response Plans of the Governments of Jordan and Lebanon to the Syrian refugee crisis, a crisis that continues to become more and more pronounced as a story of unspeakable human tragedy.

We gather today in Kuwait on the occasion of the second pledging conference for the response to this Syria crisis, and we acknowledge with sincere appreciation the tremendous generosity expressed by His Highness the Emir of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, as well as the government, NGOs and people of Kuwait.

In light of today’s largest ever single appeal, we hope the response from the international community is commensurate with the challenges at hand. After three years of armed conflict, we need to do all we can to provide Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi with the tools he needs to support a political resolution to the armed conflict in Syria.

There is a growing realization – indeed, a growing consensus – that this crisis is not only political, not only humanitarian, but that it is a development crisis as well, rolling back development achievement in Syria by 35 years, and precipitating a massive refugee crisis that is draining hosting communities, and where 4 million refugees could be living outside of Syria by the end of 2014.

The crisis is not only challenging operational approaches and coordination mechanisms that the international community has available in similar crises, but also the aid architecture itself, compelling us to venture beyond the standard separation between humanitarian interventions and development support.  

The Arab States/Middle East and North Africa Regional UN Development Group is working closely with concerned governments and international partners to complement ongoing humanitarian efforts by supporting national development responses in neighbouring countries, and in Syria itself. We are persuaded that assistance needs to be anchored in national planning mechanisms, to ensure a sustainable, cost-effective and affordable response to the Syria crisis.

The recently adopted “Resilience-based Development” approach constitutes the contribution of the Regional UNDG to a more integrated and coordinated response to the crisis. It is grounded in a belief that supporting national capacities is the cornerstone of a sustainable response. And, it can bring greater coherence across the humanitarian and development dimensions of our collective work and allow for scaling-up of investment in national development processes -- now when it is most important.

Today's event, where humanitarian and development partners join to support national response plans, marks an important milestone in our response to the crisis and in aid coordination on several levels.

First, while we recognise the regional dimension of the crisis, we also recognise that it impacts concerned countries in different ways, requiring targeted national responses, able to address the specificity of each national context.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Lebanon and Jordan for their dedicated efforts in formulating their resilience-based development responses and confirm our strong commitment in the R-UNDG to support similar initiatives in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. We are resolved to collectively supporting the implementation of these plans as development and humanitarian actors. We will do so by working under the leadership of national coordination mechanisms, through our Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators, Country Offices, through the recently-installed Sub-regional Development Facility, with the World Bank, and in harmony with other ongoing initiatives such as the No Lost Generation initiative.

Second, we must acknowledge that the magnitude of the crisis goes far beyond the response capacity of any one of the concerned States alone. We will strive to better engage non-state actors that are needed if our collective response is to be effective. The private sector and civil society have major roles to play in creating jobs, bolstering livelihoods, expanding basic social services and more.

In this sense, I am pleased to announce that we are planning to convene a Regional Development Forum before mid-2014 to bring together the expectations, voices, capacities and resources of all development partners to elaborate a more robust and comprehensive development response to the Syria crisis. 

This is why I hope that the Kuwait II Pledging Conference will always be recognized as the Forum for a successful international response to the largest humanitarian appeal ever. And I hope it also will be known as the moment where the international community came together to put forward a comprehensive response to the crisis; a response that meets the immediate needs of those most affected and most vulnerable, and also looks ahead to their future aspirations.

We can do this today, together, by strengthening the bridge that connects the humanitarian and development response, a bridge that is anchored in nationally-owned and nationally–led plans, a bridge we need to cross to a better future for Syria and the countries and peoples of this region.