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

  • Obama gets rock-star welcome in Berlin, praises Merkel

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- Barack Obama received a rock-star welcome in Berlin as he appeared at a public debate Thursday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he praised as one of his "favourite partners" during his presidency. Security was tight in front of the German capital's iconic Brandenburg Gate, where Obama and Merkel appeared on a podium before thousands of people attending a gathering marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Source
  • Georgia: Sheriff suspends self after indecency allegation

    World News CTV News
    ATLANTA -- A Georgia sheriff recently arrested by an officer who accused him of exposing himself in a park has suspended himself for one week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann emailed sheriff's office employees Tuesday, saying he imposed the maximum penalty for conduct that "has a tendency to destroy public respect. Source
  • 2 dead following separate incidents in Montreal

    Canada News CTV News
    Montreal police are investigating the city's ninth and 10th homicides of the year in different neighbourhoods. One victim died in hospital Wednesday after being stabbed during an altercation late Tuesday evening between several people at a downtown intersection (Sainte-Catherine and Mackay streets). Source
  • Passenger: airline was warned about disruptive man at gate

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- Before a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu took off carrying a passenger whose inflight behaviour prompted bomb-threat procedures and military fighter jets to escort the plane, passengers complained to American Airlines workers that the man was scaring them, a woman who was on the flight said Wednesday. Source
  • Bodies on Mount Everest? Nepal officials question report

    World News Toronto Sun
    KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepalese officials are casting doubt on the reported discovery of four bodies at the highest camp on Mount Everest. Officials said Wednesday that a team of Sherpa rescuers had found the four bodies inside a tent at the South Col Camp. Source
  • Manchester attack latest: Official says police will stop sharing with U.S.

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, England -- The Latest on the investigation into the Manchester concert bombing. (all times local): 12:25 p.m. A British official says police in Manchester will stop sharing information about their bombing investigation with the U.S. Source
  • 'Houdini' of death row set to be executed after 7 delays

    World News CTV News
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama inmate Tommy Arthur - called the "Houdini" of death row by some after he got seven prior execution dates postponed - is scheduled to be put to death Thursday evening. Arthur, 75, was convicted in the 1982 murder-for-hire slaying of Troy Wicker. Source
  • SCC to hear federal government's appeal on residential school records

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada is set to hold a hearing today on the federal government's appeal of a decision that allows personal records from survivors of residential schools to be destroyed after 15 years unless individuals decide otherwise. Source
  • Online dating profile created by ex-boyfriend makes woman target of late-night visitors

    Canada News CBC News
    She shudders with fear every time the buzzer in her apartment sounds, terrified the next stranger at the door looking for sex won't take no for an answer. The young mother believes her ex-boyfriend has set up a series of fake dating profiles under her name, encouraging men to arrive at the apartment for late-night sexual encounters. Source
  • More than a million restricted, prohibited guns in Canada

    Canada News CBC News
    A year and a half after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government came to office promising to tighten Canada's gun laws, there are now more than a million restricted and prohibited firearms across the country. The number of restricted firearms in Canada rose 5.5 per cent last year, reaching its highest point in more than a decade, according to the annual report from the RCMP's commissioner of firearms. Source