News / Middle East

    Syria Aid Conference to Seek Record $9B for 2016

    FILE - Syrian refugees stand outside their tents at a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Oct. 28, 2015.
    FILE - Syrian refugees stand outside their tents at a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Oct. 28, 2015.
    Associated Press

    International aid to the victims of Syria's five-year war, including millions forced to flee their homes, has persistently fallen short, but organizers of Thursday's annual Syria pledging conference hope for greater generosity this time around, despite a record request of close to $9 billion for 2016.

    The expectations are partly based on the reframing of the aid debate over the past year, following the chaotic migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe.

    Donor countries trying to slow the influx would arguably serve their own interests as much as lofty principles of international solidarity if they give more and spend in smarter ways to improve refugees' lives and ease the burden on Middle Eastern host countries.

    "I do think the European experience will have sharpened minds," Guy Ryder, head of the International Labor Organization, told The Associated Press while visiting Jordan, one of the struggling host countries. "And I don't think that's a bad thing if it leads to action [on Thursday], as I hope it will."

    Stark reality

    The stark reality of a drawn-out conflict requiring more ambitious long-term aid plans has also sunk in.

    FILE - A convoy of trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies are seen heading to the besieged town of Madaya, 24 kilometers southwest of Damascus, Syria, for a U.N.-aid distribution, Jan. 14, 2016.
    FILE - A convoy of trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies are seen heading to the besieged town of Madaya, 24 kilometers southwest of Damascus, Syria, for a U.N.-aid distribution, Jan. 14, 2016.

    Fighting between Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and those trying to topple him has only intensified over the past year, and the latest long-shot attempt at U.N.-brokered peace talks got off to an acrimonious start in Geneva over the weekend. Attempts to broker a cease-fire and political transition deal for Syria are further complicated by the involvement of world and regional powers facing off on opposite sides of the conflict.

    Thursday's donor conference, to be held in London, is co-hosted by Britain, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations. World leaders and representatives of dozens of countries have been invited, along with officials from international organizations, aid agencies and civic groups.

    The total aid requirement to be presented in London amounts to nearly $9 billion, including a U.N.-coordinated appeal by dozens of aid agencies for $7.73 billion and a $1.23 billion request by regional host governments. The latter is a small portion of the massive economic support sought in the coming years by countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which host nearly 4.6 million Syrian refugees.

    'Significant new funding'

    "We hope and expect to raise significant new funding," said Jens Laerke, spokesman of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which assembled the U.N.-led appeal.

    FILE - U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference after a meeting with the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during the peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 1, 2016.
    FILE - U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference after a meeting with the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during the peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 1, 2016.

    ​Such optimism comes despite widening funding gaps. Last year's appeal of more than $7 billion was just over half-funded, forcing painful cuts in programs such as refugee food aid.

    Beyond the basics, donors are also being asked to support longer-term plans, with a focus on education and jobs.

    "We think we need to make a step change now from simply the traditional model of passing the hat around the international donor community," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in Jordan this week.

    Donors would work more closely with countries like Lebanon and Jorden to boost fragile economies plagued by high unemployment and help create jobs for both citizens and refugees. Currently, the vast majority of refugees are banned from legal work, making them dependent on scarce aid or forcing them into poorly paid informal jobs. The influx of Syrians has also pushed down wages of Jordanian and Lebanese laborers, driven up rents in poor neighborhoods and overwhelmed local schools and health centers.

    Jordan's King Abdullah II told the British Broadcasting Corp. ahead of the donor conference that "the psyche of the Jordanian people, I think it's gotten to boiling point."

    Private foreign investment

    New ideas also include encouraging large-scale private foreign investment in the region and Europe granting easier access to products made there.

    FILE - In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians gather where three bombs exploded in Sayyda Zeinab, a predominantly Shiite Muslim suburb of the Syrian capital, Syria, Jan. 31, 2016.
    FILE - In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians gather where three bombs exploded in Sayyda Zeinab, a predominantly Shiite Muslim suburb of the Syrian capital, Syria, Jan. 31, 2016.

    The ILO envisions labor-intensive infrastructure projects, such building water cisterns, schools and roads. Germany has proposed a donor-funded program to create 500,000 short-term jobs for refugees in the region.

    The World Bank is meanwhile helping to set up cheap loans for host countries, with donors covering interest payments. Jordan has balked at the idea of having to borrow for anything linked to the refugee crisis, but has welcomed zero-interest financing for development programs it had to put on hold in recent years.

    One of the most specific goals of the conference deals with education — to get all refugee children back to school by the end of the 2016/17 school year. Currently, more than 700,000 school-age refugees are out of school, more than half the total.

    The U.N. children's agency said Tuesday that $1.4 billion would be needed to rescue what could become a "lost generation," both in Syria and in exile.

    But despite goodwill and new ideas, donors face a grim truth — millions of Syrians are worse off now than they were even a year ago.

    Living in poverty

    Most refugees in Jordan and Lebanon live in poverty.

    FILE - Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016.
    FILE - Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016.

    More refugee children have had to quit school for jobs to help families survive, as savings run out and adults are barred from legal work. Host countries have tightened entry restrictions for Syrians trying to escape fighting, including Jordan, where 20,000 are stranded in a remote desert area on the border and thousands more arrive each month.

    A new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council says hundreds of thousands of refugees are at risk or have already lost their right to legal stay in host countries.

    A string of diplomatic failures has meanwhile worsened conditions inside Syria, where aid groups say 13.5 million people are now in need of assistance. Millions struggle to survive in besieged or hard-to-reach areas, and several dozen have starved to death.

    "What we are witnessing now is a collective failure to deliver the necessary support to the region," said Jan Egeland, a former Norwegian diplomat who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, which has called for aid on the scale of the Marshall Plan. "We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims."

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora