Kuwait once again demonstrated its benevolent leadership and its role as an international center for humanitarian activities by successfully hosting the ‘Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria’ on 31 March.
The Kuwait III conference, which was held in response to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to His Highness the Amir, saw representatives from 78 countries, 40 international organizations and over 100 NGOs pledge US$3.8 billion to help ameliorate the suffering of Syrian people.
Inaugurating the conference, His Highness the Amir referred to the Syrian conflict as the "biggest humanitarian catastrophe witnessed by humanity in our contemporary history.” He urged the UN Security Council members to act to end the conflict through political dialogue and called on attendees at the conference to contribute generously to the humanitarian effort.
His Highness went on to point out that the crisis had killed more than 210,000 people, displaced some 12 million others internally and in neighboring countries, all of them live in harsh conditions, and in tragic humanitarian situations. The catastrophe in Syria has also deprived two million Syrian children, under 18 years of age, of their most basic rights in education and healthcare, which threatens the future of an entire generation, leaving them to face a gloomy future, and depriving their country of their active participation in building it.
The Syrian economy suffered more than US$200 billion in losses, unemployment rate stands at 57 percent, while the life expectancy rate has dropped to 55 years, the rates of poverty have risen, and the number of Syrian refugees outside the country is 3.9 million people, the biggest refugee society in the world.
His Highness Sheikh Sabah also paid tribute to the five neighboring countries hosting nearly 4 million Syrian refugees - Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt - which have been offering immense humanitarian and relief services, despite the heavy burden on their economies and security.
His Highness the Amir thanked all UN agencies working on the ground, especially UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and OHCA and went on to say that the only comprehensive political solutions to the Syrian crisis should be based on the communique of the 2012 Geneva I conference.
Reiterating Kuwait’s humanitarian credentials and leadership, His Highness stated, "In view of the continuity of the tragic situations suffered by our brothers and sisters in Syria, and proceeding from our belief in the importance and the need to convey a message to the Syrian people, that the international community stand by them, feel their suffering, and will not abandon them in their plight, I am pleased to announce the contribution of the State of Kuwait in the amount of US$500 million from both the governmental and civil sectors, in support of the humanitarian situation."
Speaking at a press conference after the successful conclusion of the conference, UN Secretary General said Kuwaitis should be proud of their nation's major role in assisting those in need around the world, Syria in particular.
Announcing that US$3.8 billion had been collectively pledged at the one-day conference, the Secretary General added the conference was a great example of international coordination on the cause, and that the international community had taken a huge step forward through pledging this amount to a situation that had entered its fifth tragic year of pain and suffering.
He went on to say that the amount pledged would go to supporting the Syria Strategic Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (ERP) inside and outside of Syria. These initiatives aim to overcome shortfalls in neighbouring countries and help address pressure placed on their infrastructure and economies through focusing on sustainable development.
The Secretary-General revealed that pledges made at Kuwait II and I in 2014 and 2013, contributed to providing food to over five million people every month, provided millions with access to clean drinking water, handed 17.5 million the opportunity for healthcare and allowed two million children to receive an education.
At the end of the conference, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres and discussed the agency's role with regard to the Syrian crisis.
Expressing his gratitude to Kuwait for hosting three conferences to support the Humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, Mr. Guterres said Kuwait’s generous contributions to UNHCR's operations have helped to meet the needs of the Syrian people.
The meeting was attended by Foreign Undersecretary Khaled Al-Jarallah, Director of Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled's office Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah, Director of protocols Dhari Al-Ajran, Kuwait's representative to the UN in Geneva Jamal Al-Ghunaim and other ministry officials.
Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah also met President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer on the side-lines of the conference. The ICRC chief hailed Kuwait's leading role in assisting nations affected by conflict and hazards, and its support of his humanitarian society. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled, for his part, praised the ICRC's effective role as part of a tripartite committee tasked with the matter of Kuwaiti POWs and missing persons since the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
In his address to the final session of the one-day pledging conference, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said the large participation in Kuwait III contributed to its success. He added that this large participation affirmed "we the international community are capable of unifying efforts to keep working to provide basic humanitarian needs for the brothers in Syria." The international community has sent a clear message that it should stop the immediately bloodshed in Syria, he said.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled hoped the pledges would contribute to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people. He also thanked international humanitarian organizations working on the ground and helping the Syrian people, as well as extended gratitude for the NGOs for their US$506 million contributions they made at the conference.
"We hope this contribution addresses agony of people who continue to suffer from killing, hunger and displacement, which has been going on for five years," said the senior Kuwaiti diplomat.