The third conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” (Brussels III Conference) is taking place in Brussels from 12 to 14 March, with the EU and the United Nations as co‑chairs. In 2017 and 2018, the international community came together in Brussels to discuss how the people affected by the conflict in Syria can be helped. The idea behind these conferences is to raise substantial funding to finance the response plans devised by the United Nations for Syria and the region so that the humanitarian situation in Syria can be improved. Another focus is ongoing support for neighbouring countries as they tackle the huge challenges they face as a result of taking in Syrian refugees, as well as the commitment to the political process in Syria. Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement ahead of the Conference:
After eight years of war, the situation in Syria no longer makes the headlines every day – but the suffering of the people continues unabated. Until conditions in Syria make voluntary return in safety and dignity a genuine option, the world cannot leave the people there and in neighbouring countries to cope on their own. That is why, at this year’s Brussels Conference on Syria, Germany is making available a total of 1.44 billion euros.
The need for humanitarian assistance is growing, not decreasing
According to the United Nations, a total of 11.7 million people in Syria are dependent on humanitarian aid in 2019. There are also around 5.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, while 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced persons in their own country. Some 1.3 million people cannot receive regular or sufficient supplies as the parties to the conflict, in particular the Syrian regime, are refusing to allow aid workers access to those in need.
Some 80 percent of the Syrian population (including just under seven million children) live below the poverty line and 9.4 million people are dependent on food aid. According to UN estimates, the fighting has not only claimed over 400,000 lives to date, but has also led to 1.2 million people being injured. What is more, medical care in Syria is very limited.
The priority for humanitarian assistance, alongside protecting sections of the population at particular risk such as children, women and old people, is to supply food and ensure that basic healthcare is available. The 2019 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that 3.3 billion US dollars will be needed in Syria until the end of 2019.
A safe return is not possible
One of the key themes of the Conference will be the voluntary return of Syrian refugees. At the present time, it is not possible to return to Syria in safety and dignity: many parts of the country are still beset by fighting. Returning refugees run the risk of persecution and arrest by the Syrian regime.
According to UN surveys, 83% of the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, where these refugees are experiencing very difficult economic conditions, want to return home. However, only 5% can imagine risking a return to Syria within the next year. Germany and its partners are therefore calling for the refugees to be guaranteed a safe return and for the UNHCR to be granted unhindered access so that it can care for refugees. Until this has been achieved, the German Government believes it is crucial that neighbouring countries be given assistance to look after refugees.
Germany is committed to providing humanitarian assistance – in Syria and in the region
With the aim of improving the situation on the ground, Germany is actively helping and shouldering responsibility for those suffering hardship. Firstly, the Federal Foreign Office is engaged in humanitarian diplomacy: at donor conferences, in dialogue with humanitarian partners and political decision-makers, at EU level and in the United Nations, Germany is calling for an increase in funding for humanitarian assistance from international donors and full access for aid workers to all those in need in Syria.
Secondly, people need quick and effective help in their current difficult situation. The sum provided by Germany for humanitarian assistance measures in Syria and its neighbours rose substantially from 52.4 million euros in 2012 to around 622 million euros in 2018. Germany was thus the second-largest donor in the region after the United States in 2018. The Federal Foreign Office and its partners – UN relief organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as NGOs – are committed to the principles of humanitarian action.