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Briefing on the Syria Response – Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), and Neighbouring Countries – Remarks by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – New York, 12 January 2016

Speeches and statements

Briefing on the Syria Response – Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), and Neighbouring Countries – Remarks by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – New York, 12 January 2016

12 January 2016

Thank you Stephen, I will speak about the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, so the external component, and I will focus more on the refugee component of this plan. The documents you have received are very exhaustive in describing the needs, proposed and planned interventions for refugees and host communities.

The total planning figure in this case is 4.7 million refugees plus approximately 4 million people from the host communities. I won't talk about the details of the plan but I'll share a few a few remarks and give you a bit of food for thought.

Of course, I am new as High Commissioner for Refugees but not new to this region, where I have spent the last 10 professional years including dealing with Palestinians in Syria.

My last field visit was to Yarmouk camp in early 2014, and the images that I saw during that visit have haunted me ever since. It was shocking to see a repeat of these images in the last few days as access was painfully gained to the besieged communities that Stephen talked about.

Like last year, this plan includes a resilience component on which Helen will be speaking focusing on national capacities.

I want to say up front that all these components are crucially integrated, and this is crucial also for refugees, as my predecessor António Guterres said for many years. That's a very important element to understand from the beginning. And resilience is especially important for host countries - a key partner for all of us in this region.

And as we often say, host countries are the top donors to the refugee operation, so I really want to stress this point. Coming to trends, and refugee trends in particular, as you can expect they are worrying and confirm, unfortunately for another year, the protracted nature of this crisis. They are worrying in three or key four ways.

In terms of numbers, the figure of registered refugees has gone from 3.9 million at the end of 2014 to approximately 4.4 million at the end of 2015. Now you must consider that part of this figure is new registration rather than new arrivals, but the trend is clearly towards an increase of the population, and it is staggering that after so many years of exodus from Syria it continues at this dramatic pace.

The second negative trend is the increased vulnerability of refugees. I will give you only two indicators. One is that in Jordan and Lebanon, 90% of the Syrian refugees live below the national poverty line. And in general we estimate that about half of the refugee children do not go to school -- something the resilience component will try to address, but this is a very significant negative trend.

Another negative trend, to look at this from another angle, is of course the decline in funding. If I recall correctly from my UNWRA days, the first appeals were funded over 70 per cent. At least the 3RP component last year was funded almost 60 per cent, but there was a surge in funding at the end of the year, as a result of the emergency in Europe in fact. So it is an indicator that could have been much worse had this generous funding not come in.

The result of this, of course, has an impact on what we can do on the ground.

The fourth and I think most visible trend that so many European countries have observed are the increased rate of secondary movements of refugees from the countries hosting them initially, bordering Syria, towards Europe.

These negative trends should not make us think negatively about what can be done. Even with insufficient resources, we - all partners working for refugees - have been able to achieve quite a lot. Just to give you a sense, 1.7 million refugees have undergone an update of their registration through new technology, through the iris scan, this is very important because of the link with security. This is one example and this was possible due to available funds. Two million people received food, or cash or mixed forms of individual and family assistance. And in spite of the inadequate number of children in school, let's not forget that 600,000 have been able to go to school. So when funding is available these positive indicators suggest that much can be achieved. It shows that assistance works, but more is needed.

This 3RP appeal calls for very big figures to complement those for inside Syria, 4.5 billion for the refugees plus 1.2 billion for resilience activities and government activities, so a total of 5.7 billion. This is a massive programme carried out by 200 partners that have participated in preparing this document.

I just want to flag one very important component, especially for us in UNHCR, which is the Regional Protection Framework. This is a very important component - I think it is about half a billion dollars in the appeal - and very significant for many reasons. It is meant to address some key vulnerabilities of this group. One is their key vulnerability, which is to be refugees. Then there are other specific vulnerabilities which are addressed in this plan, through interventions to address sexual and gender based violence, for example, interventions for unaccompanied minors, and interventions in relation to particularly vulnerable populations like Palestinian refugees that are becoming refugees for a second time.

I conclude by saying that of course our eyes are already on the London conference which is innovative in its approach to flag the needs of these particular populations and of the host communities and of host countries.

I should add that UNHCR is running a companion conference to this at the end of March for Syrian refugees asking member states to pledge places for what we call legal pathways out of countries of first asylum. We have not set targets yet but I have just met a number of member states and was encouraged to be ambitious in these targets. Of course, once we are ambitious the ambition has to go back to member states in making good pledges.

One thing I would say is that it is not, what we would in UNHCR parlance call, a traditional resettlement conference. It is a conference that promotes different legal pathways out of difficult situations -- including scholarships, including partnerships with the private sector for jobs, including family reunification, and humanitarian visas and so forth. We want to give member states a variety of options to pledge generously in different ways. The conference will be opened by the Secretary-General and will be at the ministerial level, so I would like to use this opportunity to invite member states to take it very seriously.

I conclude in joining Stephen in saying all this is painfully necessary, especially the large amounts of resources that, once again, we are obliged to ask member states to contribute and of course the trend is to make peace, and on those specific talks and on that process our eyes should also be fixed.

Thank you.