Helen Clark: Speech at UNHCR Executive Committee High Level Segment on “Solidarity with Syrian refugees and host countries”
Speech by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
at UNHCR Executive Committee High Level Segment
“Solidarity with Syrian refugees and host countries”
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., 30 Sept 2013
I thank the High Commissioner for his invitation to me to address this High Level Segment of the UNHCR Executive Committee on how the international community can work together to help relieve the impact of the Syrian crisis on neighbouring countries.
For people fleeing for their lives from Syria, the ability to cross the borders of neighbouring countries has been of immense importance.
Yet it is also true that offering refuge on the scale required has had a huge impact, particularly on those communities where the numbers of refugees are high relative to host populations. Clearly the costs on host communities and countries cannot be borne by them alone.
The political and humanitarian dimensions of the Syria crisis have been recognized from the outset. But there is now heightened awareness that this is also a development crisis. It will have a deep and long lasting impact on the development and future prospects not only of Syria. Neighbouring countries’ development prospects too have been seriously impacted. The challenge now is to ensure that our collective response to this complex crisis is both humanitarian and developmental in approach. The humanitarian needs are very stark, but the developmental challenges exacerbated by the crisis in the sub-region cannot be ignored.
Trade, agriculture, tourism, and employment have all been seriously affected across the region, with unprecedented losses of 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.
SO HOW TO RESPOND
The Syria crisis and its broader impact on the sub-region compel every organization involved in the response to act collaboratively. Both the speed and flexibility of humanitarian actors and the conflict-sensitive, early recovery, capacity building, and longer term investments offered by development actors are needed.
The Syria crisis, with its great magnitude and scope, requires us all to be even more creative and effective in our support of the affected populations, working with national partners, development banks, civil society organisations, and with the private sector.
The most recent iterations of the Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) and the Syrian Regional Response Plan (RRP) 5 recognized the critical importance of addressing the deep economic and social challenges of the countries hosting the refugees, but more concrete actions and support for addressing these are now required.
Life-saving humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced peoples is vital. Now it needs to be accompanied by targeted, scaled-up, and rapid development support, both to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian relief and to ensure longer term improvements in livelihoods and services, including in electricity, water and sanitation, education and health. At this critical moment, humanitarian and development efforts should not be seen as being in competition with each other, but rather as both essential and complementary. There needs to be rapid agreement on the frameworks which will enable both sets of needs to be met.
Over the past two years, UNDP has worked closely with UNHCR and other agencies and partners to respond to the crisis. Going forward now, we all need to be crystal clear on what our respective responsibilities are. In close consultation with host governments and international partners, a comprehensive regional framework stating the complementarities between the humanitarian and development responses must be drawn up.
• Already in Lebanon and Jordan, the establishment of Host Communities’ Support Platforms, led by the respective governments and supported by UNHCR and UNDP have been significant steps forward. These platforms should enable governments and the UN, working with the World Bank and development partners, to develop joint strategies for the provision of better and more co-ordinated support.
• UNDP has recently deployed a Sub-Regional Development Co-ordinator to work closely with the UNHCR Regional Director and the new Regional Humanitarian Co-ordinator. Our development partners are very supportive of well co-ordinated humanitarian and development approaches.
• A series of joint assessments of the development impact of the crisis has been undertaken, including the Lebanon Economic and Social Impact Assessment which was launched last week by the UN and the World Bank. A Jordanian Government-UN multi-sector assessment is underway, as is a broader UN Development Group-led study on the impact of the crisis on both Jordan and Lebanon. This work could also be expanded, as required, to include other neighbouring countries. The assessments will provide the solid evidence base needed to follow through on comprehensive approaches to recovery and development. Urgent consideration must be given to suitable funding mechanisms – which could include multi-donor trust funds – to support host countries and communities.
In responding to this crisis, we must together set a precedent for collaboration and co-ordination in the interests of all those whose lives and livelihoods are at risk: IDPs, refugees, and the people of the communities and countries which are hosting them.
Given the complexity of the conflict, and its protracted and unpredictable nature, it is not possible to have a tidy sequence of support from an initial humanitarian phase to recovery and then to longer term development. We need humanitarian and development work to proceed simultaneously. That calls on all of us – humanitarian and development actors alike – to work together closely to give the best support we can to the peoples of the sub-region at this time of great need.