The government’s actions on aid for Syria and Syrian refugees.

Supporting Syria and the Region Conference (information supplied by the government)

Syria is the world’s biggest and most urgent humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates that 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including six million children.

The UK has been at the forefront of the response to the crisis in Syria and the region since the start of the Syria war. That is why the Prime Minister decided that the UK should co-host the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London on 4th February, alongside Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations. The Conference brought together over 60 countries and organisations including 33 heads of state and Governments, plus non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector and civil society.

The Conference raised over US$11 billion (£7.6 billion), the largest amount ever raised in a single day for a humanitarian crisis. $5.8 billion (£4 billion) was pledged for 2016, to meet immediate needs of those affected by the crisis. A further $5.4 billion (£3.7 billion) was pledged for 2017-20, which will enable partners to plan ahead and to meet longer-term needs. In addition, Multilateral Development Banks and donors announced a further $40 billion (£28 billion) of loans to refugee hosting countries in the region, some of which is on concessional terms, to increase access to sustainable lending.

The UK, once again, played its part. We announced that we would be doubling our commitment to the crisis – increasing our total pledge to Syria and the region to over £2.3 billion.

The Conference not only generated financial commitments, but also ensured a new approach to responding to protracted crises. Going beyond basic needs, it set ambitious goals on education and economic opportunities, to transform the lives of refugees from Syria and to support the countries hosting them.

Participants agreed that there should be no lost generation of Syrian children. Historic commitments with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan will help ensure that by the end of the 2016/17 school year, all refugee children and vulnerable children in host communities will be in quality education, with increased access to learning for the 2.1 million children out of school in Syria. Furthermore, up to 1.1million jobs will be created for refugees from Syria and host country citizens in the region by 2018.

By doing this, we are investing in what is, overwhelmingly, the first choice of Syrian refugees: to stay in the region, closer to their home country and their families who are so often still in it. If we can give Syrians hope for a better future where they are, they are less likely to feel that they have no choice other than to make perilous journeys to Europe. This is the right thing to do for them, and for Britain.

Protection of civilians was at heart of the Conference. Participants condemned the continuing, intolerable levels of violence against civilians in Syria, and demanded that all parties to the conflict bring an end to the ongoing violations of both International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. Participants committed to ensuring people inside Syria have access to safer healthcare, safer education, and that the most vulnerable, including girls and women, are supported.

Ultimately, only a political transition can end the conflict and fully guarantee the safety and security for all Syrian citizens. To this end, Conference participants agreed to give their full support to peace negotiations. They also agreed to work together, under the UN’s coordination, to plan for stabilisation and post-conflict peace building and recovery, including committing immediate resources in support of these efforts.

Looking ahead, the international community, refugee hosting countries, civil society and the private sector now need to see through and implement the commitments made at the Conference. We will work with key partners to review implementation, including at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May.

JUSTINE GREENING

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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