Brussels VI Conference on Syria

Posted May 10, 2022

Photo: UNDP

As prepared for delivery

Opening

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues,

From the outset -- on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I would like to express my sincere gratitude to countries neighbouring Syria -- Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt -- for their continued, enormous generosity in hosting millions of refugees from Syria.

I would also like to thank the 270 3RP partners for their unwavering support to people across the region.

Our collective efforts are perhaps more vital than ever before.

This year, the 3RP has identified the highest-ever number of people in need.

Across the five 3RP countries, over 20 million people now need some form of humanitarian and long-term resilience support -- double the 2021 figure.

That is due to a range of interlinked factors including the continuing socio-economic shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic -- as well as a food, energy, and finance crisis that is being precipitated by the war in Ukraine.

This unprecedented crisis is having a pronounced effect on countries like Lebanon, Syria -- and Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat.

As a result, we are seeing soaring poverty rates and hunger; deepening inequalities; and increased tensions across the region.

  • Look, for instance, to Lebanon, where 9 out of 10 Syrian refugees are now living in extreme poverty. Moreover, some 81% of the Lebanese population are currently living in poverty -- a figure which has nearly doubled since 2019.
  • To Jordan, where the unemployment rate reached nearly 25% in 2021.
  • Or to Turkey, where at least 1.8 million Syrians live in poverty.

This comes at a moment where national and local authorities are facing increasing difficulties to extend basic services to both refugees and host communities while social cohesion deteriorates.

At the same time, climate change is also taking a severe toll on the region.

To take just one example -- look to Iraq, where desertification already affects nearly 40% of the country and over 7 million people lack access to drinking water.

3RP Results

In these fluid contexts, the 3RP has contributed to a number of transformative results in the region in 2021. For example:

  • The 3RP allocated $205 million of support to national and local institutions to construct new schools, hospitals, and water services.
  • It has trained over 5,000 teachers, 46,000 protection personnel -- and 1,500 healthcare workers, a vital effort in the midst of the pandemic.
  • It has supported the creation of nearly 9,000 new businesses while assisting 60,000 people to acquire new skills.
  • It has also provided 100,000 people with emergency job opportunities.

Such support is sending an unambiguous statement that reflects the promises of the 2030 Agenda:

Those affected by crises are not alone: whether it be host Governments, host communities, or Syrian refugees

The 2022 ‘Ask’

This leads to my main message today:

In the midst of crises, investing in development-based resilience responses is now needed to address the increasing fragilities in the region -- and foster much-needed stability.

Indeed, as the UN Secretary-General has said:

“Prevention is the very reason that the United Nations exists.”

In this spirit, this year, the 3RP is seeking a total of $6.1 billion to meet the urgent, growing needs of approximately 7.1 million refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons.

The resilience component of the 3RP -- representing some 45% (or $2.75 billion) of the total ‘ask’ -- will help the 3RP to roll-out a range of basic services for millions of refugees and vulnerable host communities such as access to water, healthcare and education.

It will also create potentially hundreds of thousands of new job and income opportunities, while increasing the capacity of local and national institutions to deliver for people.

Above all, it will provide refugees and host communities with the ability to lead dignified and meaningful lives.

Within this ‘ask’, UNDP is seeking $335 million to meet the growing needs of refugees, host communities and state institutions in 3RP countries.

Inside Syria

Now, please allow me to share some insights on the situation inside Syria.

Some 14.6 million Syrians are currently in need of assistance -- an enormous increase of 1.2 million people since 2021.

3 out of 4 households cannot meet their basic needs and half the population is now food insecure.

Notably, access to critical services such as water and electricity has sharply declined for the first time since 2016.

As was discussed earlier this year in the Senior Officials Meeting, we need to directly address this continued increase in needs and reduced funding through new approaches.

Saving lives through humanitarian responses will remain of paramount importance, but we should remember that early recovery and resilience activities save not only livelihoods – they also save lives.

For instance, a rehabilitated rural clinic will save children’s lives when completed, or a rehabilitated canal will provide water to grow lifesaving, life-sustaining food.

I ask that you move beyond this false dichotomy between humanitarian activities and early recovery -- and support our critical early recovery work. 

It is also important to note that scaling-up this early recovery assistance does not represent a shift away from humanitarian assistance. Rather it is based on an assessment of real-world needs on the ground.

This will involve increasing support to vulnerable communities across the country -- before remaining essential services collapse; before food production capacity disappears, and before what remains of Syria’s skilled and educated young people leave the country.

To do this, $1.2 billion is needed for these early recovery and resilience efforts, which represents 25% of the total requirements of this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). 

Within this, the Early Recovery and Livelihoods section of the HRP -- led by UNDP -- is asking for a relatively modest amount of $247.6 million in 2022.

This support aims to help to lift 1 million people out of poverty and allow some 150,000 people to find new job opportunities.

Indeed, I look forward to the next session, which will further outline how enhanced early recovery interventions can change the lives of potentially millions of people.

Closing

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 3RP remains the only global crisis-response platform that brings together humanitarian and development responses in a single framework.

With your continued, deeply valued assistance, we can scale-up our work to foster stability and pro-actively prevent a worsening situation in the region and inside Syria.

As the world faces its worst global food crisis since the Second World War where millions more people are struggling to put a meal on the table -- your support will give people the means to get through today and the confidence to shape a brighter future themselves.

As those inside Syria and the 3RP countries come under unprecedented strains, your continued support and predictable multi-year funding is needed more than ever to literally change the future for millions of people.

Now is not the time to forget Syrians and their host communities -- making theirs a forgotten crisis.

Apathy is not an option.