$6 billion for refugees, hosts
for 2017 at Brussels Conference
More funds planned
for subsquent years
The Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region agreed on a holistic approach to handling the Syrian crisis, including financial assistance of $6 billion for 2017 alone. It also agreed to respond to the humanitarian situation and a long-term vision to support a peaceful and stable future for Syria and the wider region, European Union (EU) High Representative Federica Mogherini said.
Delegations representing more than 70 countries and international organizations participated in the conference.
The EU also committed to maintain similar levels of support in the future, amounting to €560 million ($600 million) for 2018 for Lebanon, Jordan, and for humanitarian work inside Syria, and to maintain its level of engagement also in 2019.
“We need to support the economic development of neighboring countries to address the impact of the protracted crisis as well as opportunities for Syrians to secure their livelihoods,” Mogherini said.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri outlined at the conference the country’s strategy and needs in facing the crisis. He asked delegations to “invest in hope.”
The strategy relies on two pillars: The first is to launch a large-scale capital investment program that would help generate employment to both locals and refugees. The second is to provide education opportunities to displaced Syrians, including non-formal education, technical and vocational training.
According to Hariri, GDP growth rate has dropped from an average of eight percent before the crisis to just over one percent in the subsequent years.
He said: “Total loss to our GDP since the start of the conflict reached $18 billion in 2015.”
Hariri warned of possible unrest because youth feel threatened by the displaced Syrians, and tensions between both communities are reaching a dangerous level.
“The current situation is a ticking time bomb,” he said.
The Prime Minister said: “I fear that further economic deterioration and insecurity might push both the displaced Syrians and Lebanese to seek another home.”
The co-chairs of a session on the country at the Brussels Conference reaffirmed commitment to the London and RACE 2 goal of reaching all children with education, including a major new push on non-formal and vocational training as a pathway to formal education, in order to reach the remaining estimated 126,732 children aged 5-17 who currently have no access to any form of education.
They agreed to encourage the international private sector to engage in developmental projects in the country by increasing private and public sector investment in infrastructure, job creation, and the provision of high quality services, in particular by means of the EU External Investment Plan.
The international community said it will continue working with partners to strengthen value chains and improve the quality and standards of local products (particularly agricultural goods) in order that they benefit from existing access to EU markets and expand their export potential internationally.
In return, the government expressed commitment to instigate growth and increase the level of investments. It also pledged to implement its priority capital investment program, including employment opportunities for locals and Syrians. To attract funding, put in place a mechanism to facilitate approvals of prioritized projects including trust fund instruments with grant, loan and private finance.
The government is also expected to announce a strategy on youth, including vocational training, closely aligned with private sector needs to target the 500,000 youth most at risk.
Prior to the Brussels Conference, Hariri had visited France and Germany, where respectively he had met with President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hollande told the Prime Minister that French support can be counted on to help it overcome the heavy burdens of hosting more than one million Syrian refugees and in facing terrorism threats.
Hariri said: “If the international community does not invest in our country, we will be obliged to take steps so that they find another place.” He said that the international community has to invest $10-$12 billion over seven years in infrastructure.
Following his meeting with the German Chancellor, Merkel said: “We are trying to help Lebanon to weather this crisis, and we are trying to use this crisis in order to revive the economic dynamics of the region.”
She said that the main mission is to help the refugees and the hosting populations since they are facing the burden of hosting the Syrian refugees.
“We do not want to create an impression that the international community only addresses the interests of the refugees, but also of the host country,” Merkel said.
Germany was the second largest donor country, with donations reaching €286 million ($305 million) last year.
Support from international partners reached more than $1.9 billion in 2016, including the carry-over from 2015, according to a statement by the EU at the Brussels Conference.
As part of the country’s successes in fighting the crisis, it approved the first two World Bank-managed concessional loans – for education and for national roads.
“The health project has received preliminary approval for Concessional Financing Facility funding,” the statement said.
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
Date Posted: Apr 06, 2017