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The bitter taste of success at the Syria pledging conference

February 6th, 2013


Last week in Kuwait the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was able to ramp up over $1.5 billion in pledges to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the Syrian people whose lives have been shattered by a civil war with no end yet in sight.

Rarely do pledging conferences succeed in raising as much money as they announce in advance as their target, especially at short notice. But this conference did it and, quite remarkably, all donors – old and new – stepped up to the plate.

Kuwait, the host of the conference, generously pledged 300 million dollars, and this was quickly matched by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The EU, as always, was the most generous. We pledged $370 million, on top of $460 million already committed.

It was a good day for humanity. The work to help four million vulnerable Syrians forced to flee their homes by the violence inside their country and another million who are now refugees in neighbouring countries is securely funded for the next six months.

Yet the mood at the conference was anything but celebratory. The civil war in Syria is a cancer eating at the heart of the Middle East. Every day the fighting goes on more lives are lost and more souls wounded. There are terrible consequences for the civilian population inside Syria and also for its neighbours. King Abdullah II of Jordan warned that the refugee wave was beyond his country’s capacity. “We have reached the end of the line,” the King said. “We have exhausted our resources.” This warning was echoed by President Suleiman of Lebanon and other regional leaders.

We in the humanitarian community will continue to strive to help the Syrian people for as long as it takes. But it is only a political solution which can bring this suffering to an end. The sooner the world unites on this the better. Then celebration may finally be in order.

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