After the unexpected suspension of the Syria peace talks in Geneva, London hosted the fourth “Supporting Syria” conference this week, and was able to raise more than $10 billion for financial assistance to around 22.2 million people affected by the continuing crisis. Countries participating in the conference gathered under a humanitarian umbrella to intervene in the region to help stem the humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the conflict. The conference was live streamed and viewed from Bolivia to Sweden.
The host countries, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations welcomed distinguished Prime Ministers, Ministers of State and representatives from America (John Kerry), the EU, non-EU independent countries (Finland, Netherlands, Croatia, Turkey), the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia), Nigeria, Australia and Switzerland. Representatives from financial institutions, UNICEF and other international NGOs were also present. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon chaired over the first session.
The future stability of the Middle East was of primary concern at the conference, with John Kerry saying that the situation had worsened.
Some of the themes discussed were the loss of opportunity for women and children, the plight of the 6.5 million displaced within Syria, the suffering of refugees in Europe, and the burden on the neighbouring countries hosting refugee camps. Emotional statistics were quoted by Samah Bassas from the Syria Relief Network and references to counter-radicalisation were also made.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that there had been violations of international laws by warring parties in Syria and that it was the collective duty of those present to put pressure on the responsible parties.
Frederika Mogherini, the representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, gave a severe presentation about the political courage needed to empower Staffan de Mistura, the Italian-Swedish diplomat and UN mediator for Syria peace talks. She said, “Those who believe a military solution is possible should wait until the UN solution is implemented and delivered.”
Spiritual leader cum entrepreneur, the Aga Khan, was distressed by the devastation of Syria’s cultural assets and Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai said Syria’s future depended on its children. She challenged the audience to have every Syrian child in school this year. Amel Karboul, Secretary General of the Maghreb Economic Forum and former Tourism Minister of Tunisia, made compelling appeals to the private sector to bring education and opportunities to Syria.
The crux of the conference was call for assistance to provide education and build self-reliance and jobs to Syrians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel preferred to look to the future and to the creation of “an island of hope”. She offered practical solutions such as providing infrastructure, water, electricity and food processing plants.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the message from Geneva was not promising. He said that he did not want to offend Staffan de Mistura by saying negative things but he was hoping for better output in Geneva. He said that the Turkish door was open to all Syrians and that the humanitarian logistical corridor from Turkey to Aleppo had been cut off by pro-Syrian regime forces. Nasser Judeh, Jordan Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that every effort should be exerted to achieve a political solution.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged 10,000 tonnes of food aid.