UN 'optimistic' on 2014 donor pledges for Syria

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center, right) with Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah (front, right) during the first high-level international humanitarian pledging conference for Syria in 2013. Will the pledges this year exceed the appeal? Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / U.N.

In 2013, donor pledges exceeded the $1.5 billion combined U.N. appeals for Syria. But with the crisis nearing its fourth year and the situation of refugees even more desperate, what will happen at this week’s Syria pledging conference?

Syria took almost half or $6.5 billion of the United Nations’ total funding request of $12.9 billion for its 2014 humanitarian operations, the largest appeal the world body has asked to date for a single crisis. And donors are expected to fill this amount — or at least part of it — starting Wednesday in Kuwait.

It’s an “excellent opportunity to get some pledges at the beginning of the year, [although] it’s only part of a wider strategy of fundraising we are pursuing for the whole year,” U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Jens Laerke told Devex.

The host is again Kuwait, among the most generous donors in last year’s conference, where the the oil-rich nation pledged $300 million in humanitarian aid along with the fellow Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Beyond pledges

Laerke said the United Nations is “optimistic” that donors will be as generous as in 2013.

“Will we get it? Are we optimistic? Yes, we’re always optimistic. We are dealing with humanitarian affairs; we have to be optimistic,” he said.

But then again — as in any pledging conference — the more important question is when will the money actually arrive. And Laerke agreed that entails “always big follow-up work to do.”

Last year’s revised funding appeal of $4.4 billion is now 70 percent funded. Not bad for such huge funding requirement, according to the OCHA spokesperson. However, that means 30 percent of the funding hasn’t been met, so humanitarian groups cannot carry out all the operations they had planned.

This said, money is just part of what humanitarians need in Syria. While some groups were able to expand their activities in the past year, access and safety remain an issue.

U.N. agencies and most aid groups remain limited in government-controlled areas, and attacks on humanitarians have seen a surge in the past weeks. Five foreign staff members of Medecins Sans Frontieres were taken by an armed group early this month, while three national employees of Czech NGO People in Need were killed following indiscriminate shelling last week in the city of Allepo.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    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.