In view of the still drastic humanitarian situation in and around Syria, the international Supporting Syria and the Region conference was held in London on 4 February. Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations co‑hosted the event. Apart from securing pledges of financial assistance, the objective was to work on policy that will give refugees more prospects in the region, primarily through education and access to the labour market.
The responsibility of the international community
The civil war in Syria has now left 18 million people dependent on aid, 13 million of them within Syria. Almost five million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. While the bloodshed in Syria continues, the international community has a responsibility to provide the refugees with humanitarian assistance and not to abandon those countries which are bearing the brunt of the pressure because they share borders with Syria.
Aid funding and prospects for refugees
Germany has faced up to that responsibility and co‑hosted a conference in London on 4 February alongside the UK, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations. It was first and foremost a donor conference to seek pledges of financial assistance for the necessary humanitarian aid. Additionally, however, it was a political conference concerned with generating prospects for refugees in the region. Opportunities for refugee children to gain an education and for adults to access the labour markets of Syria’s neighbours are particularly important here. Back at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 18 January, Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for Jordan, for example, to be given improved access to the European market in return for opening its labour market to Syrian refugees. That proposal was on the agenda in London.
“Inside Syria” panel chaired by Germany
Having hosted an international ministerial conference in Berlin in 2014 on the circumstances facing Syrian refugees, Germany chaired a discussion entitled “Inside Syria” at the London conference. The focus was on humanitarian access to the victims of the conflict and forward-looking considerations of how Syria can be stabilised. At more than 1.3 billion euros in humanitarian aid since the Syrian crisis began, Germany’s contributions make it one of the top donors in the world. One of the effects of providing support in the region is to reduce the number of refugees travelling to Europe.
High-level delegations from over 70 countries were expected at the London conference, joined by representatives of international organisations, civil society and the private sector. Germany was represented by Federal Chancellor Merkel.