Rebeca Grynspan: Statement to the Informal Ministerial-Level Consultation on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria and Neighboring Countries

Sep 25, 2013

Prepared Statement for

Rebeca Grynspan

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
to the
Informal Ministerial-Level Consultation
on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria and Neighboring Countries

Your Excellency Nasser Judeh, Foreign Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan;

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commission for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response;

Excellencies and distinguished guests and colleagues,

The numbers we have heard today about the Syria crisis support the SG’s statement at the opening of the General Assembly that “Syria is the biggest peace and security crisis in the world”. This is a devastating conflict with strong regional manifestations and spillover. For a displaced person, for a refugee, for a hosting community that is gracious in its welcoming of vulnerable individuals and families seeking shelter but is itself overwhelmed by poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery, one more day of conflict is one day too many. When will reprieve come for them? This is a question which we must ask ourselves constantly, and for which we hold ourselves accountable as an international community.

The Syria crisis is indeed a political and humanitarian crisis. But there is growing consensus that it is also a development crisis in terms of its deep and lasting impacts on society and communities.  The challenge, as we see it, is how to bridge the humanitarian and development responses to the crisis. Later today, the UN and the World Bank will together reveal that the crisis will have cost Lebanon nearly US$7.5 billion in economic losses, alongside 20 percent unemployment and a widening budget deficit, all therefore compounding the country’s vulnerabilities.

For Jordan, now hosting nearly 550,000 Syrian refugees (registered and unregistered), 75% of whom are living among hosting communities in the most vulnerable areas in the countries, such as Mafraq and Irbid, the government estimates that it needs nearly $2 billion US dollars to address the impact of the crisis on its communities. Public financing for services, trade, agriculture, and tourism – the lifeline of these countries, has been severely disrupted and stressed. In Iraq, between 50,000 to 60,000 persons have entered the country since mid-August, adding to an already difficult situation. The third agenda item of the meeting implores us to test and expand our understandings of the terms ‘vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerability’ in the context of such a crisis, where IDPs and refugees find themselves being hosted by communities whose own development circumstances are compromised.

From the perspective of the development community, the message is clear: we must act together to avert the very real risks of rolling back the precious development gains we have made in this fragile region. To achieve this, we need a strategic and rapid development response to the crisis, one that is conscious of the mid- to long-term impact of this crisis on development, one that is conflict- and context-sensitive, one that supports the capacity of the governments to lead, coordinate and respond to the growing needs, and ultimately one that builds and re-builds the structural/social/economic resilience of local communities so they do not buckle under the weight of the crisis.

Alongside our work through UNDP Country Offices in support of national capacities for restoring basic services and promoting social cohesion in hosting communities, we are working closely with our partner agencies in the Regional United Nations Development Group to deliver a much-needed comprehensive regional development approach to the regionally-unfolding crisis. We are also expanding the evidence-base of assessments and studies that will guide development policy, programming and practice in countries impacted by the crisis. We have deployed a Sub-regional Development Coordinator to work closely with the regional refugee and humanitarian coordinators to ensure that, on the side of the UN, our response is efficient and effective, coherent , at scale, and provides a multi-dimensional response to the crisis’ humanitarian, livelihoods, recovery and development.

Let me close by commending the Government of Jordan and the EU on jointly convening this timely consultation. Specifically, I wish to recognize the graciousness of the Hashemite Kingdom, its government and people, for keeping their physical and socio-economic borders open to provide refuge and respite to Syrians impacted by conflict. Recalling the poignant words of His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussain at the General Assembly yesterday, he urged that words of solidarity be translated into tangible support whereby a strong signal can be sent (I quote) ‘…that the international community stands shoulder to shoulder with those who have borne so much.’ In this respect, allow me to also commend the EU that has thus far been the largest financial contributor to the response to the crisis  and, along with others in this room, hope that the purses and borders remain open and welcoming until we have passed this crisis in the region.

Thank you.

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