Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Peace talks and funding summit should urge world to try fixing past failures in Syria

World leaders meet in Kuwait on Wednesday for a second annual fund-raising summit for Syria - an event that might evoke some pessimism for its prospects and despair it should even need to have become a yearly event.

As Syria continues to resemble a textbook example of a mishandled country in crisis, the 307,000 new packs of reading material now promised by Britain to refugee schoolchildren in Lebanon may look the lightest of relief.

Yet international development secretary Justine Greening is justified in pointing the finger at other nations whose own input falls far shorter.

Almost half of the £300million in much-needed aid promised so far this year comes from Britain - although at least £900million more should be pledged in Kuwait.

Yet the UN is now appealing for £4billion this year, having received only about 70 per cent of the £3.2billion deemed necessary in 2013 - not to fritter but to provide necessary shelters, food, water and indeed education.

Even as the Assad regime destroys chemical weapons stockpiles, relentless rocket attacks have continued to pulverise towns and cities such as shattered Homs.

An estimated 6.3million people have been displaced within Syria, while Lebanon will soon be home to 1million refugees.

In contrast to the sprawling Zaatari camp in Jordan, those in Lebanon are scattered more disparately across tented camps, crammed basements and garages.

Britain was last year’s third largest donor, offering £231.2million - almost £6million more than Germany, France and Spain combined, and behind only the US (£694.4million) and the European Commission (£356.2million).

Meanwhile, Assad allies Russia and China respectively provided a meagre £9million and £1.9million.
Ms Greening, speaking from a pre-conference visit to Lebanon, told Metro: ‘This summit is massively important.

‘We’re really keen to see other countries around the world play a bigger role in helping those caught up in this crisis through no fault of their own.

‘There are countries not only in the Gulf but also in Europe who could be offering more - we really do need them now to step up to the plate.’

She also demanded safe and free access across Syria for aid workers, amid concerns both the Assad regime and rebels are restricting supplies to their own territories.

The Refugee Council and celebrity backers this week called for Britain to welcome in many Syrians left homeless.

Amnesty UK insisted the UK has not resettled a single Syrian refugee, though foreign secretary William Hague claimed 1,100 were granted asylum between January and September last year.

Yet Ms Greening, like Metro during travels in the region last September, found most refugees desire one thing above all: to go home. Their own homes.

Long-stalled ‘Geneva II’ peace talks are meant to begin next Wednesday.

They may even make some progress, slow as that would be and unlikely as it still seems.

But the least that should be done is as much as the world can do, to ease some of the turmoil borne by so many Syrians as they wait and hope one day to be homeward bound.

No comments: