In Brussels, donors pledge US$7 billion for Syrians and countries in the region

Around 70 percent of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries live below the poverty line, and pressures are growing on strained host communities.

Delegates to a conference co-hosted by the European Union and United Nations in Brussels pledged some US$ 7 billion to reach 21.2 million affected people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.

Forty donors made pledges towards the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan for neighbouring countries.

Coordinated by UN humanitarian and development agencies, the plans aim to reach 11.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, 5.6 million refugees in neighbouring countries, and 3.9 million vulnerable members of communities hosting refugees.

Syrians are increasingly challenged in their day-to-day life by limited basic services, destroyed civilian infrastructure, limited economic opportunities and massive internal displacement. As the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview and the draft Humanitarian Response Plan highlights, Syrians are confronted with soaring poverty in the country — now estimated at some 83 percent. Around 70 percent of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries live below the poverty line, and pressures are growing on strained host countries and communities.

By the close of the conference, with delegates including host countries, specialized United Nations agencies, and non-governmental organizations, a further US$2.37 billion had also been pledged for humanitarian and development programmes for 2020 and beyond.

Statements at the conference underscored that the Syria crisis is the world’s largest protection and displacement crisis, continuing to drive the largest refugee crisis in the world, and straining resilience for communities inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.

Urgency of continued support

“Syrians are increasingly challenged in their day-to-day life by limited access to basic services, destroyed civilian infrastructure, limited economic opportunities and massive internal displacement,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner in a statement at the Ministerial session on 14 March, highlighting the urgency of continued support among partners for resilience inside Syria within the context of the HRP.

Inside Syria, despite extremely difficult security conditions, UNDP is doing its best to help all Syrians, regardless of where they live, respond to the extraordinary difficulties they are facing, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including women-headed households and youth:

· Over 2.8 million people Syria benefited from improved local community infrastructure and services.

· Over 100,000 people have improved access to livelihoods.

· Over 2,700 female-headed households gained access to social and economic support.

Inside Syria, despite extremely difficult security conditions, UNDP is doing its best to help all Syrians, regardless of where they live, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including women-headed households and youth.

In 2019 UNDP is planning within the framework of the HRP to reach 90 communities across all 14 Governorates of Syria with a focus on context-sensitive resilience-building in areas such as livelihoods and economic recovery, basic social infrastructure and services, social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, social cohesion and community resilience, and capacity development for local partners. To undertake this work UNDP has appealed for US$61 million for 2019.

Steiner also called in his statement for increased help for countries neighbouring Syria. He voiced support and expressed thanks “to the host countries and host communities for their generosity, despite the severe constraints imposed by this protracted crisis.”

Generous host countries

Host countries have generously hosted Syrian refugees for nearly nine years, offering asylum and protection, opening public services, and enabling more and more refugees to participate in the local economy:

· Lebanon supported over 850,000 host community members and refugees with access to basic services, improved livelihoods and peacebuilding in 124 vulnerable localities.

· In Jordan, 2.7 million people including hosts and refugees benefited from UNDP’s support for improved municipal services.

· UNDP’s work in Turkey has supported authorities in improving municipal services for over 2.5 million Syrians and host community members, while supporting over 50,000 Syrians to improve skills in the Turkish language.

· In Egypt, host communities and refugees have benefited from interventions in waste management, and 160,000 workdays were created in vulnerable communities.

· In Iraq, UNDP has focused on the enhancement of public services, livelihoods opportunities, and social cohesion in areas heavily impacted by the crisis.

Strain on host communities

As co-lead of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Programme (3RP) along with UNHCR, UNDP is committed to ensure that host countries and communities are supported to withstand the challenges that hosting record numbers of refugees brings for stability, development and social stability, while testing resilience and putting strain on refugees and communities.

Within the frame of the 3RP, UNDP is appealing for US$560 million to continue supporting impacted host communities and institutions in 2019 to support basic services and economic opportunities.

During the three-day conference, co-hosted by the European Union and the United Nations, United Nations officials, NGO and government partners also discussed issues such as the importance of civil society in forging the road ahead, and the urgency of economic reform

Speaking in a video message to the official opening of the Days of Dialogue, on 13 March, Steiner signaled appreciation for the important role of NGOs, CSOs and faith-based organizations already in providing support to affected populations from access to basic social services to livelihoods within the Syria response. He further highlighted that inside Syria, “they will increasingly need to spearhead stronger links across what have been the boundaries of conflict to date in order to foster long-term reconciliation and peacebuilding as the time becomes right.”

At a panel on socioeconomic recovery in the region, Assistant Secretary-General and Director for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States Mourad Wahba, emphasized the need to evolve the current international partnership to better support inclusive growth and jobs for all in affected countries, and for social cohesion. During the opening remarks of the Days of Dialogue, Wahba also stressed the role of civil society in providing voice and hope to those most affected, while also bearing witness to events.

More about UNDP’s work in response to the Syria crisis here.


Photos: ©Sumaya Agha; UNDP Syria