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In order to support the humanitarian response to this crisis, the international donor community promised more than USD 1.5 billion at a pledging conference, which was held in Kuwait last month. On that occasion, Switzerland pledged another CHF 10 million on top of the CHF 20 million it had already invested since the beginning of the emergency. “I call on the pledging countries to respect their financial commitment for the much-needed humanitarian response in Syria and for the Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries,” said Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, during his opening speech of the forum.
Some 300 participants from UN member states, regional organisations, international non-governmental organisations and the world body’s humanitarian agencies took part in Tuesday’s event, the seventh such meeting since the start of the crisis in Syria.
This time, however, the forum was hosted by Switzerland and was held at principal level. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, the Commissioner-General of UNWRA, Filippo Grandi and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan participated in the event, which is the only platform between governments and main international agencies to exchange information and mobilise support for the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis.
Since the beginning of the crisis, aid agencies operating in the field have been faced with numerous challenges as aid is delivered amid high security risks and humanitarian access is limited. “I urge the Syrian government to assure rapid and unimpeded access to the victims and to do its best to secure the safety of humanitarian staff,” Mr Burkhalter continued, pointing out the need for cross-border operations. “In order to expand the humanitarian reach, we need the Syrian Government to grant permission to access the victims from neighbouring countries, whose consent we also need.”
The Swiss Foreign Minister also expressed his gratitude towards the governments of Syria’s neighbouring countries, who have provided refuge for more than 800,000 people. Without this assistance it would be impossible for the affected population to stay in the region and avoid a long and strenuous journey to seek refuge in countries further afield. “By staying in the region, there is hope that the people will be able to return to their homes as soon as the conflict is over,” he concluded.
Switzerland’s financial contribution totalling CHF 30 million is used for the protection and support of the people in need in Syria as well as the neighbouring countries. It is invested in direct bilateral activities, support of humanitarian organisations (ICRC, UN agencies, international NGOs and local aid agencies) as well as in seconding technical experts to UN agencies.