Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening remarks to the Supporting Syria and the Region conference, in London today:
This is the fourth time we have come together to show our solidarity with the people of Syria and the region.
I thank His Highness the Emir and the Government of Kuwait, and people and Government of Kuwait, for hosting three previous conferences which generated critical funding. I thank the co-conveners and, in particular, Prime Minister David Cameron, for hosting today’s meeting.
The crisis in Syria is about to enter its sixth year. The international community bears a heavy responsibility for failing to end it.
We all hope that the efforts guided by my Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would yield progress. But the temporary pause in the talks shows just how deep and difficult the divisions are.
It is deeply disturbing that the initial steps of the talks have been undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase of aerial bombings and military activities within Syria. The focus on the people of Syria is also being lost amid petty procedural matters.
I agree fully with my Special Envoy that we should not have talks for the sake of talks. The coming days should be used to get back to the table, not to secure more gains on the battlefield. I urge the Security Council and the International Support Group for Syria to press the parties to engage seriously with each other on Syria’s future.
These latest political developments add even greater urgency to our efforts here today to ease the suffering of millions of Syrian men, women and children.
We are here today with three objectives.
First, to meet the enormous humanitarian needs — at least $7 billion for this year alone, twice as much as last year. Despite the generosity of some donors, the international community has failed to keep pace with these needs.
Second, to lay foundations for long-term international support. Even if, by some miracle, the conflict ends tomorrow, the enormous humanitarian and development needs will continue for years and even decades. The United Nations stands ready to lead and coordinate this effort.
Syrian and other refugees need the chance to work and provide for their families. Today, let us commit to getting all Syrian children into school, within months, not years. Offering hope is the best way to slow the exodus of educated Syrians and prevent the radicalization of a lost generation.
Third, we are here to find ways to protect civilians. All sides in this conflict are committing human rights abuses of a shocking scale and depravity. Palestinian refugees, already vulnerable, are doubly dispossessed and in a desperate position. We must end sieges and bring food to starving people.
The situation is not sustainable. We cannot go on like this. There is no military solution. Only political dialogue, inclusive political dialogue, will rescue the Syrian people from their intolerable suffering.
I want to close by paying tribute to the brave aid workers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, United Nations agencies, international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and others who have been risking their lives to reach people in need under difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Today, let us change the narrative. Let us, by and with our solidarity and generosity and compassionate leadership, bring true hope to the people of Syria and the region.