Aid conference for Syria looks to raise $9B in 2016

AMMAN, Jordan - 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.

See Full Article

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."

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

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 UN-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 UN-co-ordinated 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.

"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 UN-led appeal.

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 labourers, driven up rents in poor neighbourhoods and overwhelmed local schools and health centres.

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."

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

Most refugees in Jordan and Lebanon live in poverty. 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."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • New National Holocaust Monument to stay open year-round

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The newly opened National Holocaust Monument won't be closed for the winter after all. Heritage Minister Melanie Joly says in a tweet that the soaring concrete structure just west of Parliament Hill will remain open throughout the year. Source
  • Candidate for Ohio governor details his sexual past with '50 very attractive females'

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A state Supreme Court justice running for Ohio governor volunteered candid details of his sexual past on Facebook, saying Friday that he was taking a swipe at the "media frenzy" over sexual misconduct. Source
  • UN to vote on 30-day extension of expert body on Syria

    World News CTV News
    The UN Security Council has scheduled a vote Friday evening on a resolution that would extend for 30 days the mandate of the expert body charged with determining responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Source
  • Police allege Toronto man, 32, placed online ad seeking sex with young girls

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Police say a 32-year-old Toronto man is facing charges in a child luring investigation. Investigators allege the accused posted an online classified ad, using the email address mikailusmaximus?åògmail.com, looking to have sex with young girls. Source
  • Italy buries 26 drowned Nigerian migrant women

    World News CTV News
    SALERNO, Italy -- More than two dozen young Nigerian women who drowned during a migrant crossing from Libya were honoured Friday with an interfaith funeral, closing out a gruesome new chapter in the years-long tragedy of desperate migrants trying to reach Europe and dying along the way. Source
  • Wife of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore says he won't quit

    World News CTV News
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The wife of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore said Friday her husband won't quit the race in the face of allegations that he sexually assaulted young women years ago. Standing on the white marble steps of the state capitol, Kayla Moore was joined by several dozen women at a rally supporting Moore as she spoke in defence of her husband. Source
  • Dozens killed in bombings in Damascus, eastern Syria

    World News CBC News
    At least five children and two rescue workers were killed Friday in a Damascus suburb during a government bombing campaign amid escalating violence in and around the capital despite a truce, activists reported. State media said that rebels shelled government-controlled neighbourhoods of Damascus, killing at least three civilians. Source
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson discloses Parkinson's disease diagnosis

    World News CTV News
    CHICAGO -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson disclosed publicly Friday that he has been seeking outpatient care for two years for Parkinson's disease and plans to "dedicate" himself to physical therapy. In a Friday letter to supporters, the 76-year-old civil rights icon said family and friends noticed a change in him about three years ago and he could no longer ignore symptoms of the chronic neurological disorder that causes movement difficulties. Source
  • Classes could resume two days after back-to-work bill passes, colleges say

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario's colleges say once back-to-work legislation to end a faculty strike is passed, classes could resume two days later. The provincial government is set to table the legislation today, after an attempt to do so Thursday evening was blocked by the NDP. Source
  • Psychiatrist says terror suspect Mohamed Harkat poses low risk of violence

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A psychiatrist who has treated terror suspect Mohamed Harkat for the last eight years says the refugee from Algeria is unlikely to commit violent acts. Dr. Colin Cameron has told a Federal Court of Canada hearing on Harkat's release conditions that his patient supports democracy and expresses revulsion about terrorist attacks. Source