A year later, donors renew push to help Syria

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the second humanitarian pleding conference for Syria in Kuwait where countries and various nongovernmental organizations were able to raise $2.41 billion. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / U.N.

Some new donors took the stage at Wednesday’s second pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait, while several actors who went big last year decided to keep a lower profile.

The conference raised a little over $2.4 billion, according to a full breakdown provided by the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This is almost $1 billion more than last year, but short of the $6.5 billion combined appeal the United Nations has issued for 2014.

Kuwait, as host, had the largest pledge of $500 million. But other Gulf states seem to falter from the list. Saudi Arabia for instance pledged only $60 million — the same as Qatar — while the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain did not promise new funds. Both latter nations announced $300 million each at last year’s conference, but it is unclear how much of it has already been committed or disbursed.

Several emerging donors, such as India and Mexico, also came forward at the conference with $2 million and $3 million, respectively, albeit these are still significantly smaller compared with the pledges made by several traditional donors. The United States promised new support of $380 million, the European Commission €165 million ($224.84 million), and the United Kingdom 100 million pounds ($164 million). Germany and Japan also upped their support, announcing 80 million euros and $120 million, respectively.

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Russia and China were again silent at the event, leaving several aid groups to criticize the two countries in their “minimal” contributions to the Syrian humanitarian efforts. Oxfam said Russia has only contributed $24 million to the appeal, when it could have given more based on its economic wealth. China did not promise new funds, but Chinese representative to the conference Wu Sike noted Beijing “will continue to provide support to the extent of its capacity to the Syrian people, including refugees.”

Humanitarian groups welcomed the contributions, noting that these will help maintain their operations inside Syria and in the neighboring host countries. But as with any pledges, it remains to be seen when and how this aid money will be disbursed.

Denmark’s 200 million krone ($36.51 million) will go to UNICEF’s educational work in Lebanon, WFP and UNHCR’s activities in Syria, and Danish NGOs. Up to $75 million will be for refugees and affected host communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, although this is still subject for parliamentary approval — which means it may take a while for the funds to be disbursed, Thomas Thomsen, a senior official at the Danish foreign ministry, told Devex.

A remaining 50 million has yet to be allocated.

“55 million where provided by the end of 2013 in support of activities in 2014, whereas the rest is funded under the 2014-budget,” said Thomsen.

A spokesperson from Luxembourg’s foreign ministry meanwhile said that it may take a while — as much as six months — for them to be able to disburse their €5 million pledge at the conference, more than last year’s with a new government in place. The bulk of the money, 3.4 million euros, is expected to go to several aid groups’ work inside Syria, while 1.3 million will be for refugee hosting communities and €250,000 euros the Syria emergency response fund.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.