Remarks at the Syria Donors Conference
Secretary of State
Well, your excellencies all, I’m cutting down significantly because we were originally given a little more time, but I’m very happy to try to fit it all in as quickly as I can. After almost five years of fighting, it’s pretty incredible that as we come here to London in 2016, the situation on the ground is actually worse, not better. And the suffering in Syria grows; it’s not diminishing.
So we all understand – and I’m not going to go through all of it; as the secretary said, we know most of the details of what is happening. But obviously, people are reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive on a day-to-day basis. That is something that should tear at the conscience of all civilized people, and we all have a responsibility to respond to it.
So we are called on to act today, and act we will. To date, the United States has provided over 4.5 billion to help Syrian refugees and those displaced within Syria, and I am proud that that makes us to date the largest single donor from external in the world. There are countries like Turkey and others who have a huge burden internally, and out of their budgets they’re trying to meet that.
So today the United States is announcing our latest contribution, which is over $925 million. That includes more than 600 million in direct humanitarian aid to provide food, shelter, water, medical care, and other vital relief to millions of people inside of Syria and across the region. It also includes 325 million in development assistance, 290 million of which is new funding specifically to support schooling for 300,000 refugee youth in Jordan and Lebanon – meeting directly, hopefully, the challenge that we face here today.
Now, ultimately the – (applause). Obviously – and a number of speakers have addressed this – today the challenge is to not just write a check every other year to increase refugees; it’s to stop the flow of refugees. It’s to end the war. And we know that in the International Syrian Support Group, we’re trying to do that, and I just want to take a quick moment.
In keeping with the spirit of Chancellor Merkel’s exhortation that today should be a day of hope, let me just say that the UN Resolution 2254 on which the talks in Geneva are based and which all the parties have accepted says the following – paragraph 12: “calls on the parties to immediately allow” – this is when we passed it on the 18th of December – “to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe, and unhindered access throughout Syria by” the “most direct routes, and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach-areas,” and also “demands that all parties immediately comply with their obligations under international law,” “demands that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects… including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and… indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”
That is mandatory. That was passed at the United Nations. That is the basis of these talks. There is no precondition. These were what should be immediately implemented starting in December and has not happened. So this morning, I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we have agreed that we are engaged in a discussion about how to implement the ceasefire specifically, as well as some immediate possible confidence-building steps to deliver humanitarian assistance in keeping with the UN resolution.
So obviously, we’re compelled to respond to the immediate needs on the ground, and we’re doing so today. In September, President Obama will convene a high-level summit on refugees at the UN General Assembly. And between then and now, we call on the global community to increase by at least 30 percent the overall response to humanitarian funding appeals for refugees. We urge at least 10 countries to make pledges that have never made pledges before. We urge 10 nations to open their doors to refugee admissions that have not done so in the past. We urge multilateral development banks to find ways to help countries like Jordan and Lebanon by offering concessional finance for programs that support services or job creation, and to help host communities. And we urge special attention to the problem not simply of housing but of helping refugees through education and employment, to build self-reliance and to resume a normal life.
So I thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. We are following the admonition of a Syrian refugee named Mohamad who lost four of his sons to this conflict. And he said it best. He said, “Our dreams are very simple – to have a decent living so that we can be self-sufficient and not put out a hand to beg. We want people to look at us as humans.” And that is why it is so imperative that next week the ISSG find a combination to produce a ceasefire and to produce humanitarian access. And I can assure you we will get back to these talks in Geneva, and we will do the business that the nation and the world has set out for us. Thank you. (Applause.)