UN comes up short for Syria 2018 refugee funds

Refugee and Migrant Crisis

The United Nations called it a “good start” but not enough.

It said donor pledges for addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria have come up short after the United States declined to pledge any funds.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports from Brussels where the conference was held.

Delegates from across 85 countries descended on the EU capital for the second and final day of a United Nations and European Union joint donor conference for Syria.

Last year, at the first such gathering, pledges by the EU and international donors totaled more than five and a half billion dollars. The United Nations estimates that Syria needs nine billion dollars in humanitarian and development assistance for 2018. Not just for Syria, but for those border countries involved in the conflict.

“We’re asking for enough money to make sure that host communities can sustain refugees, at the same time, some humanitarian aid, especially for refugees,” Saad Hariri, president of the Council of Ministers Lebanon said.

This was more than just a donor summit. Delegates also pressed for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict through United Nations led peace talks in Geneva. Russia and Iran, supporters of the Assad government, did participate but neither the Syrian government or opposition was represented.

“We were not expecting a breakthrough on the political side, but we did not have a confrontation, and they were all there in the room. Remember, one week ago, we were on the brink of a very serious crisis. It was the closest moment to what one could say a very tense Cold War.”, Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy to Syria said.

“There would be a direct interest in Moscow as well as Tehran and I limit myself to those two capitals to identifying ways to contribute positively to a political solution,” Federica Mogherini, EU Foreign Affairs Chief said.

The conference wrapped up with some disappointment. Pledges fell short. One of last year’s biggest donors, the United States, declined funding.

“We must not let down the people of Syria. They are not alone. I am glad to announce that delegations here today have made a collective pledge of 4.4 billion U.S. dollars for 2018. Moreover for next year and beyond we have pledged 3.4 billion.”, said Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid.