Statement to the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region
Delivered on his behalf by Kelly T. Clements, Deputy High Commissioner
Forced displacement continues to be a defining feature of the plight of the Syrian people. Uprooted from their homes, dislocated from their communities, and forced into a precarious life in exile, more than half are now refugees or internally displaced within Syria. Securing a political solution to the Syrian crisis is the most compelling test of international resolve in decades.
We must stay the course at this critical moment – intensifying support to frontline states and communities, enabling them to host and support Syrian refugees in the region until solutions become possible. New dynamics are unfolding, and displacement will continue even as conditions in some areas improve. Flexible support is therefore needed, and continued access to protection within and beyond the region. As the Secretary General noted this morning, we need to restore the international refugee protection regime. Growing numbers of Syrians remain stranded at border locations, and refugees are increasingly vulnerable, with a third now living in extreme poverty.
The London Conference showed that it is possible for a range of actors, with different perspectives and interests, to come together in a spirit of solidarity and to steer a meaningful shift in the response to crises. This informed and galvanised the adoption of the New York Declaration, and is cemented in the commitments made today. We’ve heard about the advances today: policy shifts with regard to education and employment opportunities, improved access to international financing and preferential trade terms for host countries, and a growing convergence between humanitarian and development action.
Despite this very important international support, there should be no ambiguity. Host countries in the region continue to bear the brunt of the response to the Syrian crisis in a manner that is not sustainable, and may ultimately generate further instability. We need a massive injection of funding.
The 2017 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, which draws together over 240 UN, NGO and government partners, and encompasses a range of innovative approaches now being replicated globally, was funded at just 60% in 2016, and contributions this year are also slow. The message here is clear: funding is not keeping up with aspirations, or with needs. Access to protection beyond the region – including through resettlement and complementary pathways – must also be reinforced. Commitments must be matched by action.
Through their extraordinary hospitality, the countries and communities neighbouring Syria have made a substantial contribution to stability in the region and beyond – despite enormous consequences for their societies, economies and infrastructure. They have absorbed the reverberations of conflict, and laid the foundations upon which peace will one day be built.
By protecting and supporting more than 5 million refugees, they are not only responding to a compelling humanitarian need, but are contributing to the future of Syria. The refugees they have received and sheltered will forge the Syria of tomorrow – a Syria changed utterly, but shaped by the investments that we collectively choose to make now.