On 15th March, the world marked the 10th anniversary of the civil war in Syria. A sad milestone for a conflict that has brought about immeasurable suffering, hardship and grief for millions of Syrian civilians. Like many people, I have closely followed its appalling developments and the horrors that the Syrian people have gone through over the past decade. In spite of the time that has passed, they continue to endure unimaginable levels of suffering and incredible pain on several fronts.
Today, over thirteen million Syrians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, living in cramped conditions in host communities or in crowded camps. With conflict spread throughout the country, more than half of the Syrian population has been forced to leave their homes, both internally and across the border into neighbouring countries. At the same time, the humanitarian situation is equally exacerbated by the threat of economic collapse. Over twelve million people are now dependent on food assistance. And eight in every ten Syrians are living below the poverty line. Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, this has created increasing dependency on humanitarian aid for those living in a society whose basic services have been largely destroyed.
I commend the dedication of all our humanitarian partners for their efforts throughout the region. In spite of the challenges that they face in their daily relief efforts, they continue to provide lifesaving support to millions of Syrians – for example, by ensuring access to primary healthcare and psychosocial programmes for those most in need. For our part, the EU has been supporting their efforts throughout the country. Collectively with our Member States, we have mobilised close to €25 billion since 2011 in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. Yet global humanitarian funding is not keeping pace with increasing needs. And aid workers continue to face enormous security challenges, with widespread human rights violations occurring throughout the country.
If Syria is to turn a page in its story, a lasting, sustainable and inclusive political solution is the only way forward. And every effort must be made to attain it. For this reason, we must pursue all possible channels to muster further support for Syrian citizens and help foster a brighter future for Syria’s people, in particular children – a generation who know nothing but war and who have been denied access to fundamental freedoms for far too long.
This week, I will attend the fifth Brussels Conference on the future of Syria and the region. It will provide an important opportunity for the international community to renew its commitments to the people of Syria – ensuring that Syria remains high on the international agenda for all donors and partners. More concretely, it will serve as yet another opportunity to show our support, both political and financial, for the Syrian people and the communities hosting Syrian refugees.
I will take this moment to invite all donors to come forward with generous pledges to meet the substantial needs of those affected by the conflict – and whose situation is now greatly exacerbated by the regional economic crisis and COVID-19, including for Syrian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The people of neighbouring countries have shown extraordinary solidarity towards the 5.6 million Syrians who found refuge outside their country.
I will also stress the centrality of protection in the response to the growing humanitarian situation in Syria. The protection of civilians, including of all humanitarian workers, and of civilian infrastructure is an obligation under international humanitarian law. So it must remain at the centre of our humanitarian response in the region. In this regard, I will reiterate the EU’s support for the renewal of the UN’s resolution on cross-border access into Syria. The consequences of losing cross-border assistance would be devastating for millions of people. It remains a lifeline for over three million Syrians - many of whom depend solely on aid to survive.
Lastly, together with High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, I will use this opportunity to urge the international community to support a negotiated political solution to the conflict. Humanitarian aid cannot be a solution to a crisis like Syria – it is only a political commitment that can ensure long-lasting stability in Syria. The EU fully supports all efforts leading to this end. But we have to do our utmost to alleviate the suffering of people and restore their dignity while these solutions are not in place. As European Commissioner with responsibility for humanitarian aid, I will continue to do what it takes to help respond to the suffering of Syrian women, men and children. After ten years of conflict, violence and war, the people of Syria have endured enough.
- Publication date
- 26 March 2021
- Directorate-General for Communication