Press Release 61/2017
5 April 2017
The international community meets in Brussels on 5 April to discuss the situation in Syria, the effects of the crisis on the region and intervention in these. Finland is further increasing its support to assist those suffering from the war in Syria and Syria’s neighbouring countries, and Finland’s pledge of support for 2017 will increase to a total of EUR 35 million.
The conference participants include not only the EU and the Syrian region but also the entire international community: the United Nations, major donors and civil society, humanitarian organisations and development cooperation agencies. The conference assesses the progress made by the international community in fulfilling commitments given at the London conference in February 2016, and agrees on additional measures to assist those suffering from the crisis. Finland has consistently borne its responsibility and provided the assistance it has pledged: Last year, Finland’s final support for Syria rose to about EUR 34 million, and Finland even exceeded the pledge given at the London conference.
Not only is the war in Syria, which has continued for six years, a vast humanitarian catastrophe; it is also an immense regional development crisis. Within Syria, 13.5 million people are in need of protection and humanitarian aid – more than half of them children and young people. In all, 6.3 million people have been displaced within the country because of the violence, many of them repeatedly. Finland hosted a high-level international conference on Syria, “Supporting Syrians and the Region”, in Helsinki in January where the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for 2017–2018, extending to Syria’s neighbouring countries and coordinated by the UN, was launched. The pledges of assistance given in Brussels are based on the plan, and the Helsinki conference thus prepared the ground for the Brussels conference.
“The Helsinki conference had three principal messages. The need for assistance to Syria and its neighbouring countries will be enormous for years to come even if progress were made in political negotiations. Support to women and their active role in relief operations must be paid more attention than at present. With regard to future building of reconciliation, it is important to support Syria’s civil society and to see that it is more closely involved in the planning and delivery of assistance,” Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen states.
Finland’s support to the victims of the Syrian conflict is divided between humanitarian aid to alleviate immediate suffering and help refugees, and development cooperation strengthening the capacity of local communities especially in neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees.
Humanitarian aid is linked, among others, with healthcare, food and other emergency relief materials, and shelter. Development cooperation support is divided into three entities: promotion of the political process and efforts to combat impunity; livelihoods and basic services within Syria; and support for the capacity of neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Finland’s priorities include women, children, education and job creation.
In spite of the Geneva peace talks, the Astana meetings supporting them and the ceasefire that came into force at the end of 2016, in practice the parties have not ensured the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to its destination. It is still very difficult to deliver aid to certain areas and across lines to all those in need within Syria. Finland appeals especially to the ceasefire guarantors – Russia, Iran and Turkey – that they would exert their influence to make it possible for aid to reach its destination.
Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law continue in Syria. Finland strongly supports the work to combat impunity and sees it as a prerequisite for a lasting peace. Finland together with 104 other countries has endorsed the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on establishing a mechanism supporting Syria’s accountability. As part of the pledge made in Brussels, Finland will give EUR one million to support the work of the mechanism in 2017–2018.
Inquiries: Jussi Nummelin, Unit for the Middle East and North Africa, tel. +358 295 351 768 and Noora Rikalainen, Unit for Humanitarian Assistance and Policy, tel. +358 295 351 310.
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