The UK cut funding for the Syrian refugee program by a third at a major UN donors’ conference, despite direct UN calls that the plight of refugees has worsened than ever during the 10 years of civil war in Syria.
The UK offer of at least £ 205million was made by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and compares with a donation of £ 300million at the same conference last year. The UK finally provided £ 400million last year, so if there is no additional UK funding later in the year, the reduction in UK aid will be almost 50% .
This is the latest in a long series of cuts made by the UK in its aid program due to its decision to reduce the size of the UK aid budget relative to the size of the economy from the country.
Raab pointed out that the UK has provided £ 3.5bn to help Syrian refugees in Syria and neighboring countries since 2012. But he also accepted that Syria’s neighbors were under exceptional pressure due to Covid.
Germany, the US and the EU, traditionally the main donors to the Syrian refugee program, have not cut their donations, and Berlin has pledged not only £ 480million for this year, but the same sum for next year. American collateral includes future loans.
Shortly before Raab spoke, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on the video conference: “For 10 years, the Syrians have endured death, destruction, displacement and deprivation.
“And things are getting worse, not better. More than 13 million people need humanitarian assistance to survive this year. This is more than 20% more than last year, and the majority of the population now faces hunger.
UN humanitarian operations chief Mark Lowcock had also directly called on the UK not to cut aid to Syria, warning that such cuts in aid to refugees could come back to bite the UK back. the future. Lowcock told the conference that plummeting living conditions, economic decline and Covid-19 are leading to more hunger, malnutrition and disease.
“There is less fighting, but no peace dividend. More people need more help than at any time during the war.
Jean-Michel Grand, executive director of the charity Action Against Hunger, called the British Cup unacceptable. “It is a war-torn region, ravaged by Covid-19, and with an economy in free fall. In 10 years of conflict, the situation has never been worse, ”he said.
“In November, the government told MPs that it would continue to stand with the Syrian people in times of need. Reducing our aid commitment by almost a third does not represent such solidarity or such support.
“The world is watching to see what global Britain really means and so far the omens are not good. We cut aid to Yemen, a country on the brink of famine, and followed suit by cutting support to Syria by 32%.
The aid agency is one of the few to operate inside Syria. Unicef UK said: “Now is not the time to roll up a lifeline for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.”
The UN, at its fifth pledging conference, requested $ 10 billion (£ 7.3 billion) for the comprehensive Syria aid package in 2021, with the money going to Syria , Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
UN officials told the conference that $ 4.2 billion would be earmarked for people inside Syria and $ 5.8 billion for refugees and their hosts in the Middle East.
About 24 million people are in need of basic assistance, an increase of 4 million over the past year and the highest number to date.
Many speakers pointed out that an entire generation born in Syria had known nothing but war and that many of them had received little or no formal education. But there is little to no sign that the country’s president, Bashir al-Assad, is ready to negotiate with his political opponents, and whatever the economy, he feels entrenched in power by Russia.
Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister, told the conference: “A decade has passed since a group of 50 children painted an Arab Spring slogan on the city wall of Daraa. Assad’s secret police arrested and tortured them. Since then, a decade of destruction has been inflicted on the Syrian people by their regime and international supporters, dashing their hopes for change.
He said half of the Syrian population needs help, 90% live in poverty and 2.4 million children cannot go to school.
With Syria due to hold its own presidential elections later this year and refusing to engage in the UN peace process, Maas said: “A sham elections in a crumbling country cannot replace a real political process.
Many speakers have warned of the threat to 3 million Syrians in the northwest of the country if Russia goes ahead with UN plans in July to close the last cross-border crossing point of ugly.
But with the West unable to find any leverage on Russia to bring Assad to the UN negotiating table, the danger is that Syria will go through another year of turmoil.