International donors pledge record €8.3bn for Syria

EU gives two thirds, but will finance reconstruction only after a political process

Photo: EPA EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) and Lebanese PM Saad Hariri during the conference, Brussels, 14 March.

The third Brussels conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, co-chaired by the EU and the UN, ended on Thursday with a pledge by international donors of a record figure of more than €8.3bn in aid for this devastated country and for the refugees who fled the nine-year long conflict. Almost two-thirds of the overall pledge come from the EU.

Prior to the conference, the UN had said that $3.3bn would be needed to help meet Syria's own aid needs this year, plus a further $5.5bn to support neighbouring countries where most Syrians are seeking refuge. About 11.7 million Syrians still depend on aid and more than 6 million of them have been forced from their homes but remain in the country. “That is a very significant result,” the UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters.

The foreign ministers from 55 countries participating in the forum also renewed support to a UN-led political process to establish an inclusive and united Syria.

“The goal remains the same: A Syrian led, Syrian owned political process facilitated by the UN to establish an inclusive, non-sectarian governance for a united Syria,” EU foreign police chief Federica Mogherini said, adding that the solution to the conflict should not be about power-politics, but first and foremost about the people. At a press conference she pointed out that the EU is fully united that it will not finance reconstruction in Syria unless there is a political process of transition there. Developments on the ground have prompted calls from some quarters for reconstruction to begin, with Russia among those looking for help in the process.

Since 2011, the EU has mobilised around €17bn to help people affected by the Syrian war and their host communities. At the Brussels conference the EU committed a total of €6.79bn: €2.57bn from the EU budget managed by the European Commission and €4.22bn from EU Member States. Out of the €2.57bn from the EU budget, €2.01bn is committed for 2019 while €560m has already been committed for 2020 for people in need inside Syria and in the region.

Ahead of the meeting, Federica Mogherini said the 28-nation bloc would give Turkey €1.5bn more to help it manage Syrian refugees. In 2015, the EU promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan €3bn to help manage the refugee burden, plus a further €3bn of the first tranche was correctly spent.

Mogherini co-chaired the conference on behalf of the EU, together with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. The UN was represented by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination Mark Lowcock. He was accompanied by UNSG Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The US pledged more than $397m in refugee support.

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