A general view of al-Hol displacement camp in Hasakah governorate, Syria. Photo by: Ali Hashisho / Reuters

The fifth Brussels conference supporting Syria and the surrounding region begins Monday, with officials saying needs are greater and more diverse than ever.

A United Nations spokesperson told Devex that more than $10 billion is needed to fully support people in need, including at least $4.2 billion inside Syria and $5.8 billion for refugees and host communities in the region.

The two-day virtual event will start with a “Day of Dialogue” between civil society, U.N. agencies, and European Union officials. The pledged amount is scheduled to be announced by the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Janez Lenarčič, at 8 p.m. Brussels-time Tuesday.

Here’s what we’ll be watching.

All eyes on the UK: Mark Lowcock, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, told The Guardian last week that cutting aid to Syria now would be “massively destabilising” and “a grave step in the wrong direction.” That followed an Open Democracy report that Boris Johnson’s government is planning to slash funding for aid in Syria from £137 million ($160 million) pledged last year to just over £45 million this time around.

Who’s on board?: The EU complained this month that too few donors are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to humanitarian aid. An EU official told reporters last week that the European Commission has done “extensive outreach” to countries, and “we will see if this has been useful.”

Talking points: With COVID-19 making in-person meetings impossible, organizers admitted that having a true exchange of views will be challenging this year. Moderators will try to join the dots, and rapporteurs will follow events on the opening day to provide input to decision-makers on day two. But how many donors will be listening? And how many will opt to speak by pre-recorded video message instead?

About the author

  • Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.