United Nations receives over 2.4 Billion in Humanitarian Aid for Syria
- Appeal marks one of the largest in United Nations history.
- Canada yet to pledge assistance to request.
- ‘Geneva II’ planned for January 22, but concerns remain over Iranian involvement.
By Konstantine Roccas, Staff Writer
Following almost three years of civil conflict, Syria remains divided along sectarian grounds and the situation shows no signs of improving. Over eight million people have been displaced, over one hundred thousand have been killed and an estimated two million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Egypt.
Speaking in Kuwait, under-secretary general of the United Nations (UN) and emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos said of the refugees: “The numbers are now so large they are difficult to comprehend.”
She also noted that due to the conflict Syria’s GDP has dropped 45 per cent, and the Syrian pound has lost over 80 per cent of its value.
On top of this, the Rebel faction has been wracked with infighting, with Islamic extremists fighting with the more moderate elements for control—leading to the conflict spilling across into other countries such as Iraq and Jordan.
In the midst of this civil tragedy, the UN has been doing what it can to provide aid to those trapped between the Rebels, the extremists and the Assad government. On Wednesday, the UN was promised $2.4 billion in aid to be donated to Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance—less than half of their initial request.
To date, the U.S. has pledged $380 million, while Kuwait has offered $500 million. Other countries that pledged donations include Norway, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar; however, Canada has yet to pledge assistance on this particular request. Since 2012, the Canadian government has given roughly $200 million in aid to Syria.
In response to the UN’s request, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will look to hold a peace conference on the matter on January 22nd in Montreux in Switzerland. Ahead of this summit, Kerry will spend his time in Paris, Rome and Kuwait to build a consensus for a framework for the conference.
The United Nations announced on January 6 that it had begun to send out formal invitations to the conference dubbed ‘Geneva II’. However, the decision on whether or not to invite Iran has not yet been made. Although Russia and the UN believe that Iranian involvement is necessary for a peace deal, The U.S. argues that it wouldn’t make sense for Iran to get involved in Geneva II before they accept the first Geneva framework.
In a press conference in Jerusalem on January 5, Kerry told reporters, “We are going to implement Geneva I, which calls for a transition government by mutual consent with full executive authority; and if Iran doesn’t support that, it’s very difficult to see how they’re going to be ‘a ministerial partner’ in the process.”
In response, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, in an interview with Al-Monitor in September, “If they ask us to go we will go but without conditions. We do not accept conditions.”
While there is much to be done before the conference is convened, the $2.4 billion in aid generated will be distributed to those in need through humanitarian aid groups, and indicates a commitment by the global community to resolve this crisis sooner rather than later.
Konstantine Roccas is an observer of local and international affairs and governance, but also writes about anything else that piques his ire. He enjoys a half kilo of Greek yogurt daily. He writes articles, features and Canadian Beacon for the Arbitrage Magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @KosteeRoccas.