Kuwait City

30 January 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at Joint Press Conference with H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, at Syria Pledging Conference

Today, under the leadership of the Emir of Kuwait, the international community has come together in solidarity with the people of Syria. I thank His Highness, the Emir of Kuwait, for this remarkable effort and for his country’s very generous contribution of $300 million for the humanitarian response.

I am pleased to announce that we have exceeded our target. More than $1.5 billion has been pledged today to respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by the Syria crisis. This includes $184 million from non-governmental organizations and charitable groups from the Gulf region. The exact amount pledged is now being calculated. I would like to thank the members of the international community for participating and contributing generously and all these charitable organizations.

This Syria Pledging Conference was the largest humanitarian pledging conference in the history of the United Nations.

We have many pledges and commitments that will help to make a real difference in the lives of suffering people. Today we sent them a message of hope.

I again thank all of the donors for their generosity.

And I give you my pledge: the United Nations will make sure that these resources are used in the most effective way possible to deliver urgent, life-saving aid to the people in need.

Together, we are sending a message to Syrians:  You are not alone.

The world is standing with the Syrian people in this humanitarian emergency.

We will continue to stand by them as we work to help pull Syria out of its death spiral and find a peaceful end to this calamity. 

I thank all the Member States, the humanitarian agencies, the non-governmental organizations and the regional organizations for their engagement and solidarity.

I particularly thank the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and the Government of Kuwait, for their generosity in hosting today’s conference and for their unwavering support for humanitarian work.  Their pledge of $300 million will help save countless lives, and it set an inspiring example for others.

I am also deeply grateful for the hospitality and generosity of Syria’s neighbours – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt – for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Their exceptional efforts should be supported by the international community.  I also urge all the neighbouring countries to uphold their commitment and responsibility to keep their borders open to all fleeing violence in Syria.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we have heard and seen today, the needs are great.

The Syrian people are enduring a living hell.

After nearly two years of unrelenting violence, more than 60,000 people have been killed.  More than 700,000 people have fled Syria seeking safety in neighboring countries and beyond. This number is rising by the day.

One out of five Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. More than one out of ten have fled their homes. The fighting is devastating schools, infrastructure and Syria’s cultural heritage.

This is a political crisis. The humanitarian response can never be a substitute for a political solution.

The violence must stop and the perpetrators of atrocities must be held to account.

As we search for political solutions, we cannot waste even a minute in our efforts to care for so many people who are so badly in need of help. We must address the humanitarian situation which is catastrophic and getting worse.

Many Syrians are living without the most basic services.

Electricity and water are in short supply. About half the public hospitals and one quarter of the schools have been damaged.

Some children have lost two years of their education. There are reports of terrible sexual violence. The Palestinian and Iraqi refugee communities are among the most vulnerable and worst affected.
People are fleeing for their lives and taking shelter whenever, wherever they can: in abandoned buildings, in schools, on construction sites exposed to rain and snow.

The huge humanitarian operation in Syria starts with the Syrian people themselves.

The UN humanitarian agencies have a very effective engagement with partners and the non-governmental organizations delivering aid on the ground in all of Syria’s governorates.

Despite all the challenges, the UN is doing its utmost to provide life-saving assistance to all in need throughout Syria and to all Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is responding as quickly as possible. My Emergency Relief Coordinator has just come from Syria, where she continued her stellar work on behalf of the country’s people.

The World Food Programme has fed 1.5 million people. Nearly half of their aid goes to areas controlled by the opposition or in dispute.

UNICEF [UN Children’s Fund] and the World Health Organization have helped vaccinate millions of children against measles and polio.

UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] and its partners continue to support hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries. 

But the needs keep growing and we cannot keep pace.

That is why this Pledging Conference is so important. It will enable us to do much more to reach those in need. 

Once again, I thank the Government of Kuwait and all the donors. 

And I thank you, the representatives of the media, for your courage in telling this tragic story and carrying the voices of Syrians to the world.

Thank you very much. Shukran jazeelan.

Q: Obviously this is a very important humanitarian milestone today, but you are going to have more conferences like this and raise more money until the killing is stopped. Should those countries that sit on the Security Council be ashamed of the deadlock while so many people are dying every single day?

SG: This is a very important question, at the same time a very critical question. The unity of the Security Council is very important, I can say even it may be the key in addressing this issue. We have been trying very hard in close coordination with the whole international community, and also in close coordination with the League of Arab States. The Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, briefed the Security Council yesterday and met the five permanent members yesterday. We have not yet been able to bridge the gaps between the parties concerned and among the P-5 members. I urge again to the members of the Security Council to feel the sense of responsibility to humanity and history. We cannot go on this way.

What is more important is that the primary responsibility rests with the Syrian Government, President [Bashar Al-]Assad. He should listen to the voices and cries of so many people, the families whose fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters have been killed. They are earnestly wishing for a democratic and peaceful country. He has to listen to the voices of these people. The primary responsibility rests with him.

Both sides must stop the killing. I’m sorry to tell you that both sides seem to be determined to leave in military options. There is no military option, no military solution. This should be resolved through [a] political solution where the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people can be discussed and resolved. That is my lesson. Thank you very much.

Q: Recently, for quite some time now, the United Nations is not able to solve problems in hot spots. Don’t you think – I’m talking about Palestine and Syria – it’s about time to have reformation in the UN, especially the Security Council? Thank you.

SG: Unfortunately these days we are seeing more than two hotspots. We have fires burning in Mali, we have seen such a crisis in some of the African countries. There is no Middle East Peace Process going on – this Middle East Peace Process is completely stalled.

At this time what is most urgently important and serious issue is the peace and security and humanitarian situation in Syria. More than 60,000 people have been killed during the last 22 months. Personally, I am pained to think how many more people may have to be killed in the coming days and weeks and months if we do not bring this situation to an end, urgently. That is why we are meeting and we are urging both parties first to stop killing to allow some political space. During that time we can deliver humanitarian assistance to the people and negotiators can sit down together to solve these issues, [find] political solutions. This is my urgent call and this must be your urgent wish [and that] of many people around the world. The United Nations is addressing all of these issues but it requires the unity of Member States, particularly the Security Council. That’s the key – to have the unity of the Security Council to address all of the crises which are threatening the peace and security of the world. I thank you very much.