Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Hope for Syria

At the Third International Humanitarian Donors Conference for Syria in Kuwait, Said Shehata finds cause for optimism

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Hope” is a play produced specially in Kuwait to show solidarity with Syria amid the sufferings of Syrians. It ends with cries of “Hope, hope, hope!” along with belief in a better future and Syrians going back to their homes.

In spite of all the figures illustrating this staggering tragedy  such as 220,000 killed, two million children without schools  there are some reasons for optimism in dealing with the current crisis in Syria.

First, the initiative by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the prince of Kuwait, to offer generous support for the Syrian cause is an encouraging step to ease the daily sufferings of Syrian refugees. Kuwait hosted three international donors conferences, the first raising $1.6 billion; the second pledging $2.4 billion dollars, 90 per cent of which was collected. The pledges of the current conference are $3.8 billion. In both the second (2014) and third conferences (2015), the prince of Kuwait pledged $1 billion. This shows the leading humanitarian role of the prince and the Kuwaiti people. Thousands of Syrians benefited from this money. There are other countries that follow Kuwait in this concern, such as the US, which pledged a $508 million. I met some NGOs and international organisations during the conference that provide tremendous help to vulnerable people inside and outside Syria.

Second, the international community and UN Security Council took steps in order to help deliver aid inside Syria through Resolution 2165. Ms Valerie Amos, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, told me in interview that this resolution helped them to do some work inside Syria though the situation is getting harder and harder than before. Political solutions are the remedy to end the current Syrian crisis. However, there are no prospects of such a solution soon. Therefore, humanitarian work is crucial to alleviate the pressure on  and wounds of  Syrians.

Third, the international community and some organisations have been working on making aid sustainable through training programmes and productive projects. For example, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated a new scheme called “Resilience” in order to enable Syrians enter the employment market. Helen Clark, a UNDP administrator, told me that the UNDP helped 1.2 million Syrians and can do more if they have more money. She added that the new scheme would make Syrians able to help themselves. I would argue that such schemes support the dignity of Syrians, because it frees them from depending for long on others. “It is heart-breaking,” according to Ms Amos, to see the cruel conditions to which Syrian refugees outside Syria and displaced Syrians inside Syria are subject. However, the refugees themselves are inspiring because they believe in a better future. There are about four million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and other countries. In addition, there are about 7-8 million who are displaced inside Syria. Enabling them to live in dignity and safety is the main goal of this humanitarian action and advocacy campaign.

Fourth, hosting countries are doing a lot to help Syrians. For example, Salam Tamam, the Lebanese prime minister, said during his statement in the third donors conference that there are about 1.5 Syrians who live in Lebanon and this accounts for a third of Lebanon’s population. The Jordanian prime minister said this his country hosts 1.4 million Syrians. Both of them expressed their need for help. During this conference, $1 billion will go to support hosting governments, according to Ms Amos.

Fifth, there was no representative for Syria in the conference. My reading of this is that it was an attempt to encourage donors that take sides in the current conflict in Syria to donate without reservation. Political stances could otherwise affect the size of donations.

So no Syrian side in the event was a good idea in order to unify and depoliticise the humanitarian efforts of the 69 countries and more than 40 international and regional organisations who participated.

Finally, I saw a determination on the side of Kuwaiti charities to carry on the good work they have done with regard to helping Syrians in dire need. One of those charities talked about volunteers going from Kuwait to help in camps and in crisis situations. There are many NGOs that send volunteers, some of which sadly died in Syria. People’s feeling for Syrians is amazing, showing the depth of human solidarity in times of disaster. Many organisations continue to work, providing help though the difficulties that exist inside Syria.

In the end, as Mr Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, mentioned in his statement, the only solution to the Syrian crisis is the political solution. Nonetheless, humanitarian aid is crucial to easing the severe hardships experienced Syrians. There is hope because Syrians believe there will be a solution and they will go back to their homes. There is hope because of the generous support provided by the international community to help Syrians.

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