The Syria Conference “Supporting Syria and the Region” held in London in February 2016 and co‑hosted by Germany, the UK, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations set new standards for international support during the refugee crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries. With pledges totalling more than 12 billion US dollars, the donor countries earmarked a record sum for the crisis region. As the largest bilateral donor, Germany is making available a total of 2.3 billion euros and is of course also contributing to the EU funds pledged. In a follow-up meeting on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York, the relevant players voiced their satisfaction at progress made thus far.
Almost 100% of the German pledge has been delivered
Ambassador Joachim Rücker, Special Representative of the Federal Government for the Middle East Stability Partnership, underscored Germany’s commitment:
We are honouring our pledges. The German Government has paid out or committed by contract almost 100 percent of the 1.3 billion euros it pledged for 2016.
More than two-thirds of this amount is being used for UN aid plans. Not least due to such pledges, the World Food Programme has for example been able to improve significantly the level of food supplies reaching people in Syria and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Also in other countries, progress is being made on implementing the pledges. On behalf of the five co-hosts of the London Conference, British Prime Minister Theresa May pointed out in her speech at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York that some 80% of the pledges for 2016 has been delivered. Of course she went on to say that we must keep up and indeed step up our efforts.
Food and schooling
In London, the international community set itself the ambitious goal of granting all Syrian refugee children in the region access to education at the latest by the end of the 2016/17 academic year. This year alone, the German Government is investing around 195 million euros in education projects in Syria and neighbouring countries and is working particularly to promote schools, vocational training and university scholarships. For example, we are supporting the Lebanese education initiative RACE (Reaching All Children with Education) and the building of new schools in Jordan.
Boosting exports and creating jobs
Furthermore, the donor countries and neighbouring states agreed to create more than 1.1 million job opportunities for Syrian refugees and nationals of the receiving states in the coming years. EU trade liberalisation for Jordan agreed a few months ago in the form of a time-limited relaxation of the rules of origin in 18 selected industrial areas and development zones is also to play an important role. The Employment Initiative for the Middle East for which the German Government has earmarked 200 million euros this year has also made progress. By the end of 2016, the “Cash for Work” scheme is to create some 50,000 temporary job opportunities and thus improved prospects in Jordan, northern Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
In New York, Germany and its partners reaffirmed their commitment to the London goals. Yet they also made clear that a political solution to the conflict in Syria is more important than ever.