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Brussels conference on Syria: Placing resilience at the forefront of the international response


Through its 3RP partnership with UNHCR, UNDP works to build resilience among refugees and host communities in the region. UNHCR photo

The 2016 London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region drew world leaders from around the globe and raised more than US$10 billion dollars in pledges to address one of the largest, longest-running crises in modern memory. “Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis,” the UN Secretary-General observed.

Hosted by Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the UK, London brought together OCHA, UNDP and UNHCR, integrating the need for urgent humanitarian with the need for more medium-term resilience approaches to support Syrians and the communities hosting them in surrounding countries and to assist the vulnerable populations inside Syria..

Significantly, it focused on education and livelihoods, yielding multi-year commitments including concessional loans inside Syria, and tried to spearhead a new “compact” with Jordan and Lebanon—with increased international funding aimed at boosting jobs for Syrian refugees. Together, these and other innovations acknowledged the need for a new, more robust approach to address what remains a vast and prolonged crisis.

Giving falls short

Yet resources made available to date have fallen short.

The Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for inside Syria has received only 49 percent of requested resources ($1.6 billion out of $3.2 billion), while the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) has received only 62 percent ($2.8 billion out of $4.5 billion).

Refugees meanwhile continue to face extremely high rates of poverty: 70 percent of refugees are below the poverty line in Lebanon, 90 percent in Jordan, and 54 percent in Egypt.

While London affirmed the need to invest in resilience, the vast majority of funding is still directed toward humanitarian needs. 

The resilience component of the 3RP 2016 to support refugee host communities was also notably and critically under-funded. Just 38 percent of the required $1.6 billion was provided.

The same is true for inside Syria. Despite a growth in the Early Recovery and Livelihoods (ERL) sector budget in the HRP from $43 million to $173 million between 2013 and 2017, the funding received has not risen commensurately. The 2016 early recovery/livelihoods envelope of $148 million received no more than one-third in funding or $54 million.

New appeal

In January, UNDP, OCHA and UNHCR joined Finland in launching a 3RP appeal for 2017—with the aim of raising 4.63 billion to assist over 4.7 million refugees from Syria and 4.4 million host community members. This year 3RP comprises an even greater focus on resilience, which now accounts for 44 percent of the total required, up from 28 percent in 2015.

The HRP 2017 for inside Syria is appealing for $3.4 billion to assist as the crisis enters its seventh year, with some 13.5 million people needing humanitarian assistance, including 4.7 million people living in besieged or hard to reach areas. The Early recovery/livelihoods budget is $173 million.  This is not a large amount but can be crucial in avoiding more Syrians swelling the ranks of those that leave the country for lack of economic opportunities.

The upcoming Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, 4-5 April, will provide a vital opportunity for donors to reassess ongoing needs and priorities and to forge a stronger international response to the crisis that better calibrates humanitarian needs with resilience.

Hosted by the European Union, United Nations, UK, Germany, Qatar and Kuwait, it will include a hard look at how best to reinvigorate the peace process and mobilize funding for long-term livelihoods and resilience-building support, both in refugee host communities and inside Syria, where the majority of Syrians remain.

Now in its seventh year, this crisis has brought about devastation on a scale that was until recently unimaginable. The Brussels event is an opportunity for the international community to review the support it provides to Syrian refugees and their host communities in the surrounding countries as well as the vulnerable inside Syria.

It is also about redefining international approaches to a protracted crisis that better integrates humanitarian needs with more long term socio-economic/livelihood approaches in order to boost the resilience of the most affected. Inside Syria, resilience also instills hope in the future of Syrians and Syria, which is precisely the title of the conference.

UNDP remains committed to the resilience of the refugees and host communities in the region through its 3RP partnership with UNHCR and to the most vulnerable inside Syria.

With so many millions of Syrians in poverty and at grave risk, we must hope participants in Brussels will fully embrace—and fully fund—a robust, game-changing investment in resilience and recovery over the long term.

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