Paying the price: Why donors must take a new approach to the Syria crisis
Written by Abby Bruell, Humanitarian Program & Policy Officer
Donors trying to help Syrians survive their country’s civil war have not been strategic in their approach, and the crisis is severely underfunded, particularly in the areas of education, livelihoods, and protection, Concern Worldwide said in a report released today — “Paying the Price: Why donors must take a new approach to the Syria crisis.”
With a quarter of a million lives lost, immeasurable human suffering, and levels of displacement not seen since the Second World War, “Syrians urgently require predictable and sustained support from the international community,” Concern Worldwide said in a report released today.
“Donors’ commitments are not being honored, and… donor countries have not effectively adapted their funding approaches to respond to the protracted crisis,” noted the report, released in advance of the donor conference,Supporting Syria and the Region, to be held on February 4thin London. The funding that has occurred “has been un-strategic, focused on short-term interventions and has overlooked critical sectors,” the report said, and “the consequences of underfunding… are deadly serious.”
A DEEPENING, MORE COMPLEX CRISIS
Since 2011, 50 Syrian families have been displaced every hour of every day, and Syrians now make up one fifth of all global homelessness and people on the move. Globally, the average time a refugee spends in exile is 17 years, meaning that the worldwide impacts of this crisis will endure for decades, even if a peace were reached tomorrow.
However, despite the war, the majority of Syrians remain inside the country. As the conflict enters its sixth year, the scale of need is unprecedented. Over a third of the population has been forced to flee their homes and livelihoods. Since the crisis began, average Syrian life expectancy has fallen by 20 years. Yet the funding still does not match the scale and complexity of the crisis.
Lifesaving emergency assistance remains critically important, but it needs to be “sufficiently complemented by funding towards sustainable interventions,” says the report. The horrific images of starvation coming out of Madaya showed the world that emergency food aid was urgently needed. However, without corresponding investment into agriculture, the future food security of Syrians remains in jeopardy. Yet funding for agriculture made up just 0.5% of the Syria Response Plan in 2015. When they are asked, communities themselves highlight as priorities “early recovery, resilience, livelihoods, protection and education” — all sectors that attract very small proportions of donor funding.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST STEP UP
While the report acknowledges that donors have given at record levels ($5.5 billion in 2015), the overall funding fulfillment to appeals covering Syria and neighboring countries has decreased. Concern calls on leaders at the London conference to ensure that pledged funds become reality. A framework must be developed to hold donors to account and timeframes should be set for releasing pledged funds.
However, increased funding is only one piece of the puzzle. “Funding efforts will ultimately be futile,” the report notes, unless the international community takes other critical steps, including actively pursuing a peace settlement, securing humanitarian access to those in need within Syria, working with host governments for policy changes that support refugees, and ensuring that Syrians have greater participation in the decisions that directly impact them. Without a negotiated political solution to the conflict, the needs, and the funding required to meet those needs, will continue grow.