Gina Casar: Statement at the launch of the Syria Strategic Response Plan 2015 and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2015, Berlin, Germany

Dec 18, 2014

Your Excellency Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs;

Your Excellency Mr. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development;

Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends:

I wish to start by thanking the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for generously hosting this important event today.

Over the past four years of the Syria crisis, attention has understandably focused on the terrible loss of life, destruction, and displacement. The scale, duration, and geographic expanse of the crisis go beyond these impacts, however. Unprecedented social and economic consequences are felt within Syria as well as within neighboring countries, compelling us to widen our scope of response.

In Syria, violence and destruction have taken a massive toll on lives and livelihoods, on the functioning of the economy and markets, shuttering large and small businesses, dampening trade and pushing over three-quarters of the population into poverty – among whom over 4.4 million are now living in extreme poverty.

The burden on neighboring countries – especially Jordan and Lebanon, but also Iraq, Turkey and Egypt – is unsustainable, despite their valiant efforts. The combination of economic slowdowns, massive – and unsustainable – expenditures in support of refugees, and difficulties in keeping up with new demands on every kind of resource, is stretching social and economic infrastructure and assets too thin, for countries and communities alike.

Over the last few years, the international community has been challenged to come to a stronger understanding of the importance of addressing these developmental aspects of the crisis alongside the humanitarian aspects; of investing now to save later; of rebuilding and fortifying the foundations of society, so that once peace is achieved, it can be sustained.

Across the UN System and among donor partners – and in support of the resilience agenda of the countries most affected by the crisis – there is broad agreement that we need a response that brings together all of our capacities, knowledge and resources in a single framework addressing the humanitarian and development aspects of the crisis.

I am pleased that our partners and donors are increasingly joining us – and indeed championing –this new, comprehensive response to the crisis by making available development and stabilization financing windows, cutting across bureaucratic rules and helping us break silos, strengthening the evidence base, experimenting, and in some cases making multi-year humanitarian and development pledges.

Now we have a chance together to take this shift another significant step forward.

Today we are launching both the Syria Response Plan for 2015 and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan – the 3RP. Together they comprise a new framework for responding to the needs of Syrians and people in neighboring countries.

In this new generation of response, almost 30% of the 3RP’s 4.5 billion dollar budget is for programmes and projects designed to support the most vulnerable local communities and to expand service delivery systems. 1 out of every 7 dollars appealed for will go to strengthening self-reliance and creating economic opportunities for the most effected host communities, especially the youth.

This is a three-fold increase when comparing to the last generation of response.

All evidence indicates that investments in the creation of economic opportunities now will save financial resources, not just in the medium term, but also in the short term. This extra investment in livelihoods is expected to reduce the amount of humanitarian relief required to respond to the crisis.

These plans are the best approach we have yet to responding to the broad impacts of the crisis. Allow me to highlight three key points in particular.

First, it is important that the overall response to the crisis be centered on Syria, not only as an appropriate measure to address devastating consequences at the source and where it is most needed, but also to alleviate the burden on neighboring countries.

According to the recently released Syria Humanitarian Needs Overview revealed, Syria has lost nearly four decades of human development. This is in addition to the terrible loss of life; the one million injuries; the 12.2 million people who require livelihoods support; the destruction of cities and towns, services and infrastructure; and the unmeasurable damage to the social fabric.  

The Strategic Response Plan for Syria that is being launched today accounts for the resilience-based and stabilization approach by increasing its focus on stabilizing lives, livelihoods and the communities in which people live. If implemented with our full support, the SRP can significantly reduce future outflows of refugees by creating more stability within parts of Syria. This sea change will be of tremendous relief inside Syria as well in neighboring countries and host communities who have communicated in no uncertain terms that they have surpassed the limits of their extraordinary ability to provide refuge and support for those in need.

Second is the fact the 3RP invites us all to drive a shift in aid architecture. The 3RP is a first for the UN. It is the first time that we have put forward in a single, coherent framework at a regional level, a response plan that so clearly and fully integrates humanitarian and development responses.

The 3RP is a country-driven process to support the five most affected neighboring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt – with over 200 partners across the region, under the leadership of Governments and with the support of the entire UN system, working as One.

3RP is anchored in the National Response Plan of the Jordanian Government – the Jordan Response Plan. It is mainstreamed in the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, and it is fully consistent with response frameworks in Egypt, Iraq and Turkey.

This shift will help us all be more effective in our response, by addressing the needs not only of refugees, but also of host communities and countries.

Let me give you some examples of resilience-based interventions as envisaged in the 3RP.

UNICEF’s ‘No Lost Generation Initiative" is a good example of resilience building by addressing education and protection needs of millions of children from Syria – covering both immediate emergency support and longer-tern interventions.

ILO, UNDP, UNHCR and UNIDO, in Egypt, will support the expansion of existing livelihood service provision systems to target refugees and poor members of impacted communities.   

WFP, UNHCR and UNICEF are exploring mechanisms for complementary targeting of cash and food assistance in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon as means of building resilience at the household level.

UNFPA will be working with local partners in neighbouring countries to set-up comprehensive women’s centres in a bid to improve the response to SGBV through national systems.

In Lebanon and Iraq, FAO is enhancing resilience at community levels through preserving crucial economic assets, supporting food production, and improving employment opportunities.

To our partners we ask that you join us in this transformational shift, by doing what you can, strategically and operationally, to bring forward development financing alongside the humanitarian windows so that we can address the crisis in the most relevant and sustainable way.

The Berlin Communique, agreed here just two months ago, marked an important agreement to this effect. Momentum is shifting, and our hope is that the 3RP can be decisive in solidifying this shift.

Third, and finally, a resilience-based approach is at the heart of the SRP and the 3RP also aims to fortify social cohesion at a time when it most urgently needs support.

This region of the world is rich in diversity. This diversity is one of its great strengths. But the crisis has brought new, considerable pressures that threaten to heighten inter-communal tensions and erode the social cohesion that has kept societies together.

By strengthening resilience in Syria and in neighboring countries alike, by addressing the needs of refugees and host communities, by investing in the innate capabilities of people and the capacities of national and local institutions, the SRP and 3RP carry the potential to reduce many of the strains that have come to the surface or are beginning to appear on the horizon. These plans support some of the advance work that must be undertaken to lay a foundation for a sustainable peace and a resumption of human development.

I must be clear in stating what we all know to be true, and echoing what my colleagues and our hosts have already shared: sustainable progress requires a political breakthrough that allows for a cessation of hostilities and a pathway to peace.

In this respect I join colleagues in saluting the efforts of UN Special Envoy Mr. Staffan de Mistura, as well as the efforts of the international community, neighboring countries and all parties concerned, to arrive at a peaceful, lasting solution.

As we hope for and work toward a peaceful solution, we must also do everything we can to address the needs of people today. This requires the broadest, fullest and most coordinated of our efforts. I am pleased, and hopeful, that together we are taking a major step forward today.

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