UNDP helps Syrian refugees and their host communities through a variety of programmes, which generate income and build skills and friendships. Photo: UNDP Jordan/Lianne Manna

 

Brussels - Delegates to the fourth Brussels conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” today pledged $5.5 billion for 2020 to the UN’s programmes that are saving lives, protecting vulnerable families, building resilience across Syria and the region.

Speaking at a session on impacts in the region, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner highlighted the need this year to mark a “turning point” for support for the region, as the impact of COVID-19 wreaks havoc on economies and threatens to further destabilize the region.

Pledges at the conference were focused on funding the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan.

Coordinated by UN humanitarian and development agencies, the plans aim to reach 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, 5.5 million refugees in neighboring countries, and 4.5 million vulnerable members of communities hosting refugees.

“The economic crisis now crashing upon an already-strained region is rolling back development and putting unbearable pressure on governments and communities hosting refugees in the region,” Mr. Steiner said. “Millions of people who just months ago were struggling to stay out of poverty, have now completely lost their livelihoods. As an international community, we must send a strong sign of solidarity by increasing support for neighbouring countries hosting refugees from Syria.”

By the close of the conference, with delegates including host countries, specialized United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations, a further US$2.1 billion had also been pledged for humanitarian, resilience and development programmes activities in 2021 and beyond.

The Syria crisis is the world’s largest protection and displacement crisis, which for nearly ten years has driven millions of people to require humanitarian assistance and protection inside the country.

The conflict continues to drive the largest refugee crisis in the world – there are 5.5 million Syrian refugees registered, with over 2.6 million being children, in a region faced with deepening economic, social and development challenges.

The COVID-19 has added urgency to the response. More than a health crisis, the impacts of COVID-19 have had an immediate impact on communities’ ability to get by across the region.

Inside Syria, 90 per cent of the population is now living under the poverty line. In Lebanon, is estimated that nearly 45 per cent of the Lebanese now live below the poverty line and lay-offs and salary cuts are challenging people’s coping mechanisms. In Jordan, two-thirds of families in a recent survey said they had less than one week of financial resources to draw on at the peak of the lockdown. Unemployment is set to rise in Turkey, and the slowdown in Iraq is compounded by recent drops in the international oil price.

As the technical lead on the United Nations socio-economic response to COVID-19, UNDP is supporting countries to seize the window of COVID-19 as a chance to pivot towards a more inclusive, sustainable future – including in the context of the response to the Syria crisis.

“The impacts of compounding crises underscore the need to review our collective strategies to support the countries of the region, not simply to cope – but to find a more sustainable road to development, stability, and recovery,” Citing pre-COVID protests in Iraq and Lebanon, Mr. Steiner said that “the existing social contracts in some countries have approached breaking point, at precisely the time when reforms and confidence are most vital.

Referring to reforms needed to address demands for more inclusive development, Mr. Stenier said that “as we support countries in the new COVID-19 reality, we must be fully aware of this new changed world, and our responsibility as an international community – and the opportunity – is to ensure that we continue to support efforts which approach reforms holistically and realistically.”

“Given the increasing challenges in the region, it is now more important than ever that we continue to build momentum on the resilience component” of the response, Mr. Steiner added.”

Today’s conference, held in a virtual formal, was co-chaired by the United Nations and the European Union. 

The United Nations and the European Union cooperated very closely and substantially in the preparation of the conference, which further reaffirmed that only an inclusive, comprehensive and genuine political solution will ensure a sustainable end to the conflict in Syria.

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