EU Commissioner Georgieva discusses the Syrian humanitarian crisis at Almedalen

It started with peaceful demonstrations, later developed into a ferocious civil and eventually resulted in one of our most dire humanitarian catastrophes in modern age. The region is sleep-walking into a sectarian war, which is not only going to affect Syria but clearly its neighbors as well, says the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva.

Today there are some 6.8 million people inside Syria, almost half of its population, who are in need of urgent help and protection. These are people that the humanitarian actors have not yet been able to access and assist. Another 1.6 million Syrians have fled seeking refuge in neighboring countries where the conflict has regularly been spilling over the borders. The flames of Syria will take Lebanon if we don’t manage to contain the fire that Syria is engulfed in, according to Georgieva.

Over the past two years all actors engaged with the Syrian conflict have unanimously stressed and underlined the urgent need for a significant increase in humanitarian support for Syria. All actors at Almedalen also highlighted the need of innovative ways to react and find political solutions while at the same time provide humanitarian assistance. However, the current political deadlock prevent humanitarian workers to access the most affected areas in Syria and reach the effected population.

As the humanitarian organizations assist inside and outside Syria, Kristalina Georgieva emphasized the need of accountability among those actors, as well as to ensure that accurate figures of those that are assisted can be obtained and we need to be able measure the impact and the extent needed of the humanitarian response.

Georgieva pointed out that EU has allocated a budget of Euro 1.3 Billion for the assistance to Syria, supporting 12 International Organizations and 23 partners operating inside Syria who have put their lives at risk to save others. Georgieva underlined that EU provide assistance through channels that EU usually try to avoid using such as across borders and confrontation lines as access in Syria has been severely restricted and a main challenge when delivering the humanitarian response.

The Zatari refugee camp in Jordan has expanded to the extent that it outnumbers bigger cities in the surrounded areas, according to Georgieva. She adds that the camps should be managed by experts on urban planning and management and not by humanitarian workers, stressing that it is time to start rethinking how we respond in emergencies as they have become more complex and prolonged. She also highlighted another important issue affecting the current humanitarian crisis and where the effected population never gets to recover before yet again being hit by new emergencies.

Moral dilemmas between saving lives and saving principles have also become evident and a source of new challenges in Syria, particularly when it comes to the Rule of Law, Georgieva adds. For this purpose cross border operations should not be supported as they put the lives of the humanitarian workers inside Syria at unacceptable risk, she continues.

Gunilla Carlsson, Minister of International Development Cooperation of the Swedish government, who yesterday provided for additionally 45 million SEK to UNICEF and Swedish Red Cross to meet the challenges the Syrian crisis poses, sees a more intense interaction between donors and actors compared to been before. Minister Carlsson stressed the need of bringing in new donors and look at the regional actors to see what they do to respond to the situation inside Syria.

Moreover, Minister Carlsson underlined that Sweden is one of the biggest donors in Europe. Despite these efforts we still get blamed for not doing enough, even though we are not the cause the crisis, as are other wealthy regional actors in the Gulf, she urges. Therefor we should hold others accountable for what they are not doing to assist, she continues.

Georgieva stressed that the EU will continue its efforts in assisting and deal with the humanitarian situation in the region by firstly advocate for the respect of international humanitarian law; Secondly to continue to strive to do everything EU can to support the people inside Syria no matter financial costs, which will, by default reduce the number of refugees to the neighboring countries, and thirdly, continue to advocate and act to stabilize the situation in the neighboring countries financially and politically.