Syria €25m aid ‘is focus of largest-ever Irish response to single crisis’

Ireland brings aid in region to €100m since 2012 as €3.6bn pledged at EU-UN summit

UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator Mark Lowcock  at a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini during an international conference on the future of Syria, in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. Photograph: Francois Walschaerts/Reuters

UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator Mark Lowcock at a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini during an international conference on the future of Syria, in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. Photograph: Francois Walschaerts/Reuters

 

Pledges of €3.6 billion in aid to Syrian refugees at home and in neighbouring countries this year were made at an EU-UN conference in Brussels on Wednesday. A further €2.7 billion was committed from 2109 on.

The result falls short, however, of the €6.5 billion that the organisers had said was needed for what has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis since the second World War.

Ireland brought its contributions to the region to €100 million since 2012 when it announced a further commitment of €25 million on top of the same amount last year.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: “The scale of the challenges to be addressed is enormous – that is why Syria is the focus of the largest-ever Irish response to a single crisis.”

‘Good start’

UN under-secretary-general Mark Lowcock said it was a “good start”, and that he expected the figures would rise. “I would have liked for our appeal to be fully funded,” he said, admitting there would have to be “some prioritisation” of their work.

He emphasised the need to help the most vulnerable, and that the organisation would be working with donors to see where they want the money spent.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Minister of State for Development Ciarán Cannon said Ireland would be putting a particular emphasis on education, warning there was a danger of a “lost generation” of children.

The EU-UN second Brussels conference, Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, involved participants from more than 85 countries, international organisations and NGOs. Regional players were well-represented.

The event had never been seen as an opportunity for a political breakthrough in Syria. It was, EU and UN speakers insisted, an important opportunity to test the water on the political mood a week after what EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini described as a situation that was “on the verge of a major military escalation”.

‘Wake-up call’

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura spoke of the events surrounding the recent chemical attack on Douma and its aftermath as a “wake-up call provoking a lot of high-level diplomatic contacts”. It was the strongest hint of ongoing diplomatic activity on the issue, although not in Brussels.  

Delegates pose for a family photo during the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA
Delegates pose for a family photo during the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Mogherini said they had to see in the very fact of the conference, and the respectful tone of discussions, a measure of an understanding on all sides that there could be no military solution. She said she also perceived “common ground” on the key role of the UN in leading the search for a solution, and on the need to support Syrians inside and outside the country.  

The first conference last year saw pledges from the international community totalling €5.6 billion to support humanitarian, stabilisation and development activities in 2017 in Syria and the region, and a further €3.5 billion for 2018-20.

The funding was divided between Syria (25 per cent), Turkey (23 per cent), Lebanon (17 per cent), Jordan (13 per cent), Iraq and Egypt.