Humanitarian Response to Syria Must Address Development Crisis, Says UN Development Chief

30 Sep 2013

image (Photo: Jodi Hilton)

Geneva - While the need for life-saving humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced peoples remains paramount, the international response to the Syria crisis must also include targeted development support, said the UN’s development chief Helen Clark today in Geneva.

“Life-saving humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced peoples is vital,” said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.    “As well, it needs to be accompanied by targeted, scaled-up, and rapid emergency development support, both to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian relief and to pave the way to longer term improvements in livelihoods and services, including in electricity, water and sanitation, and health.”

Clark was speaking to the Executive Committee for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) during a special session to address how the international community can work together to help relieve the impact of the Syrian crisis on its neighboring countries. 

“The political and humanitarian dimensions of the Syria crisis have been recognized from the outset,” Clark said.  “But there is now heightened awareness that this is also a development crisis and it will have a deep and long lasting impact on the development and future prospects of Syria.”

The large flows of refugees to countries neighbouring Syria is becoming an increasing challenge. 

“Trade, agriculture, tourism, and employment have all been seriously affected across the region, with unprecedented losses on revenues, taxes, and wages – particularly in Lebanon and Jordan. Within each host country, competition for already limited resources such as water and land, for jobs and livelihoods, and for essential services has increased social tensions within communities.”

One-tenth of Jordan’s population is currently composed of refugees, and nearly 25 percent of Lebanon’s population by the end of the year is expected to be made up of registered and non-registered refugees concentrated in already-poor and vulnerable regions.

Last week, at the inaugural meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon, the World Bank and the UN gave estimates of the costs of the crisis to Lebanon of nearly 7.5 billion dollars in economic losses. Unemployment has doubled from ten to twenty per cent, and the country’s budget deficit is widening.

Jordan is hosting around 550,000 Syrian refugees – both registered and unregistered. The government estimates that it needs nearly 2 billion dollars to address the impact of the crisis on its communities.

In Iraq, there are over 220,000 Syrian refugees, of which 61,000 have arrived since mid – August.

In Turkey, between 500,000 to 600,000 Syrian refuges have crossed the border since the start of the conflict.

“Clearly the costs on host communities and countries cannot be borne by them alone,” said Clark. “The challenge now is to ensure that our collective response to this complex crisis is both humanitarian and developmental in approach.”

To read the Administrator’s full remarks, go to the UNDP News Centre at www.undp.org

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For more information:
In New York: Christina LoNigro at Christina.lonigro@undp.org or +1 212 906-5301
In Geneva: Adam Rogers at Adam.Rogers@undp.org or +41 79 849 0679