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Statement by Minister Costello in Kuwait at Donor Pledging Conference for Syria

United Nations, Minister Joe Costello, Speech, Middle East and North Africa, 2013

Statement by Minister of State with responsibility for Trade and Development Joe Costello T.D. at the High Level Donor Pledging Conference for Syria 2013

United Nations, Kuwait City, 30 January 2013

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Madam/Mr Chair,

This important Conference represents an opportunity for the international community to demonstrate its commitment to and solidarity with the people of Syria and the neighbouring countries which have been affected by this crisis. Syrians have experienced intolerable violence and suffering over the past 22 months. During a visit to Jordan last year, I was able to witness first-hand the desperate situation of Syrians forced to flee their homes and country as a result of the conflict. I was struck by the overwhelming generosity of Syria’s neighbours who to date have received over 680,000 refugees. Ireland would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their support.

As the conflict endures, the humanitarian needs escalate. Since the uprising began in March 2011 at least 60,000 people have been killed in the violence. Inside Syria there are an estimated 2 million people displaced and over 4 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. The harsh winter conditions are compounding the suffering of the ever increasing numbers of refugees and IDPs. The critical situation demands a further concerted effort from the international community.  The declaration by the UN of the situation as a ‘Level 3 crisis’ demands an appropriately high level and effective response.

During Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union, we are strongly advocating a principled approach to humanitarian action. Nowhere more than Syria is this approach so vital – delivering aid on the basis of the humanitarian principles is the only way that the most vulnerable Syrians in the worst affected parts of the country will receive the assistance they so desperately need.

In our role as President of the EU, we are also working closely with member states to encourage a fast, robust and coordinated response to the humanitarian needs in Syria and the region.  The EU, as the largest donor to the Syria crisis, has been unwavering in its support. I am heartened to see today that member states, including Ireland, continue to play their part in responding to the increasing humanitarian needs.

I am pleased to announce today that Ireland will contribute the sum of approximately €4.7 million ($6.2 million dollars) towards the humanitarian response in Syria and neighbouring countries. This will be provided to key UN partners such as UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and UNWRA as well as the ICRC. It will support the provision of life saving humanitarian supplies and essential services such as health and education. Funding to the Syria Emergency Response Fund will enable both UN agencies and international and local NGOs to expand their reach to assist those in the worse affected areas. Ireland’s funding will help implementing agencies to address the crisis within Syria and in neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

This brings our total contribution to the relief efforts in Syria and the region over the past twelve months to more than €7.1 million ($9.46 million dollars).  In addition to this amount, Ireland is also a major core funder to several of the important actors in the Syria response, such as ICRC and the key UN Agencies. Since 2006, Ireland is also the seventh largest donor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund which has provided over $40m to the humanitarian response in Syria.

As EU Presidency, we are also delighted to see that the total EU contribution to be announced today, consisting of emergency funding from both the European Commission and individual Member States, will amount to over €273 million ($370 million dollars).

It is essential that those Syrians most affected by the conflict are able to access the humanitarian assistance being pledged today. Together with the international community, Ireland will continue to call on all parties to provide unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and to protect civilians, including humanitarian workers and key medical staff who are in the front line of response to victims of violence. 

While the immediate imperative is to respond to the escalating humanitarian needs on the ground we must also persevere with our international efforts to find a sustainable political solution that is so desperately needed.

Ireland and our EU partners continue to fully support the UN and Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, in his mission to broker an end to the conflict and the initiation of a political transition plan. It is imperative that all concerned with this conflict, whether within Syria or the wider international community, extend the fullest cooperation and support to Mr. Brahimi’s efforts. We continue to look in particular to the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities and exercise real leadership in promoting a political solution which fulfils the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

There also needs to be accountability for what has transpired in Syria. We owe this to the all too many innocent victims and their families. Ireland was proud to join with 56 other countries in calling upon the Security Council earlier this month to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC and reminding all sides of their obligations to fully respect and abide by international law. We hope this call is heeded and that our collective efforts here today will demonstrate to the Syrian people that the international community continues to stand with them in their hour of need.

I thank you.