Secretary-General's opening remarks to Pledging Conference on Syria
Kuwait City, 30 January 2013
We are here today to support the women, men and children of Syria.
They are suffering terribly, with little end in sight. That is why I decided to convene this pledging conference along with the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
I thank His Highness and the Government of Kuwait for hosting this important meeting. The Emir has just announced a remarkable contribution of $300 million. I deeply appreciate his enormous generosity. This is a testament of His Highness, the Emir, and the people of Kuwait's strong commitment to humanity. I hope you are all inspired by this stellar example of international solidarity. May I invite you again to applaud his very generous contribution.
I express my sincere gratitude to the governments and people of the Gulf region -- Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – and all the other governments and regional organizations represented here.
I particularly thank the governments and people of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq for hosting and supporting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
I salute all the NGOs for their heroic work.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is courageously distributing aid to people in all areas of the country.
Premier Urgence, the Danish Refugee Council and the International Medical Corps are here representing NGOs working inside Syria. So are ACTED and the International Rescue Committee, which are supporting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
Let me express my deepest gratitude to the relief agencies and charity groups that are rushing humanitarian aid to Syria. I salute the women and men who run these operations under very difficult conditions.
Many humanitarian workers have lost their lives in Syria – including eight employees of UN humanitarian agencies and eight employees of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. We pay tribute to them today. Seventeen UN staff members are now in detention. I call for their immediate release.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The situation in Syria is catastrophic and getting worse by the day.
At least 60,000 people have been killed during the last 22 months. I am pained, personally, to think how many more people will be killed if the current situation continues.
Four million people are in immediate need. Ten per cent of all Syrians have fled from their homes inside the country and more than 700,000 have left Syria.
Nearly two million children are in need of humanitarian aid.
And every day Syrians face a cascading catalogue of horrors: unrelenting violence … dwindling supplies of food and medicine … and human rights violations including sexual violence and arbitrary arrests and detention.
The use of heavy weapons in residential areas has destroyed whole communities and neighbourhoods.
About half the public hospitals and one quarter of the schools have been damaged.
Food prices are rising and the water and electricity infrastructure is being systematically destroyed.
For years, Syria was known for its generous support to those in need. Until recently, Syria was the third largest host to refugees – including more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees and 63,000 Iraqi refugees.
Now, these displaced people are at the highest risk of being displaced once again.
I saw some of the effects of this crisis last month when I visited Za’atari camp in Jordan and Islahiye camp in Turkey.
Many of the refugees had lost beloved family members. Others had watched as their homes were destroyed.
I met children whose only wish was to return home, to go to school again, to play with their friends, to live normal lives.
They were just five or six years old.
I told them that the United Nations and the whole international community are standing with them.
Here, today, we must make good on that promise.
Humanitarian aid cannot solve this tragedy.
The bloodshed and misery will end only when there is a political solution.
The need for that solution becomes more urgent every day.
I appeal to all sides, and particularly the Syrian Government, to stop the killing.
In the name of humanity: Stop the violence.
Your royal highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we search for a political solution, we must do everything we can now to help our fellow human beings who are suffering and dying before our eyes.
We must ease their burden, give them hope, and help them survive these dark days until they can return home and build a brighter future for Syria.
The humanitarian agencies of the United Nations, the non-governmental organizations and our partners on the ground are getting help to people in need.
We are working with the Government and the opposition to reach as many people as possible in all areas of the country, in spite of the fighting and many other obstacles.
The World Food Programme and its partners reached a million and a half people every month.
Humanitarian agencies are providing basic relief supplies like blankets and mattresses to more than 400,000 people.
More than a million children have been vaccinated against polio and another million against measles. The UN and its partners are providing education and social services to children traumatised by violence, providing clean water and hygiene supplies, and helping farmers to plant their crops.
Over a recent two-week period, UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] distributed cash and food assistance to help more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees.
But this is not enough.
The winter conditions are harsh, and the needs are enormous.
Syrians fleeing the violence urgently need food, blankets, warm clothes, heating fuel and medical services to survive.
We are asking for $1.5 billion to fund our response to Syria’s humanitarian crisis over the next six months, in two appeals focusing on the needs inside Syria and those of the refugees.
This request adds up [to] our biggest short-term appeal ever.
We urgently need your help.
I am deeply mindful of budget pressures that every government faces today.
But we cannot allow funding constraints to prevent us from bringing life-saving aid to people in desperate need.
Without resources, we cannot deliver. Without resources, more people will die.
This emergency requires our maximum efforts.
Governments, NGOs, individuals, the private sector… all have a role to play.
I am confident that by the end of the day, you will have made commitments to help Syrians face the next difficult weeks and months with greater confidence and more hope.
We must do more, and we must do it now.
We cannot fail the Syrian people.
I thank you for your very generous commitment and leadership. Thank you. Shukran jazeelan.
Statements on 30 January 2013