31 March 2015

UN Secretary-General's Remarks at Press Conference following Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria. [Scroll down for Q&A]

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. Salaam aleikum.

I am pleased to be joined by His Excellency Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait.

Allow me to once again commend the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait.  This Humanitarian Pledging Conference simply would not have been possible without his commitment and generosity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is yet another example of the vital, life-saving leadership that Kuwait has [shown] to help those in dire need around the world.

The people of Kuwait should be very proud of that compassionate example that the Amir of Kuwait has set for other countries and for the enormous good that Kuwait has done for Syrians who are suffering through no fault of their own.

While I express my deep anger against Syrian leaders who have been abandoning their own people – what we have to do as citizens of international community, we have to help those helpless Syrian people who are suffering, who are dying, every day. We need to provide life-saving support to them. In that regard, I am deeply grateful again to His Highness, the Amir, and for the leadership of the Kuwaiti government and people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A relentless, ruthless war is destroying Syria.  The violence has left so many Syrians without homes, without schools, without hospitals, and without hope. 

Today, the international community stepped forward in an unprecedented show of solidarity to ease their plight.

Member States of the United Nations, regional organisations and international partners have pledged $3.8 billion dollars in support of the Syria Strategic Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan.

With these resources, humanitarian agencies and their partners will be able to reach more people inside the country. And I really thank you very much.

These pledges will also help neighbouring countries overcome the strain of hosting refugees, a strain that has taken a heavy toll on infrastructure and economies.

We know the kind of commitments made today will make a profound difference. 

Contributions last year allowed humanitarian organizations to provide food to over 5 million people every month; enabled millions to access clean water; permitted more than 16.5 million medical treatments; and helped more than 2 million children to attend school inside Syria.

I want to once again thank all donors for their pledges.

But I want to repeat: the best humanitarian solution to end the suffering is a political solution to end the war.

It is time to forge an inclusive, Syrian-led political transition based on the Geneva Communique and which meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.

The United Nations will continue to spare no effort to find such a solution.

Once again, I thank you for your generosity and commitment.

Thank you. Shukran jazeelan.

Q: How do you assess the result of this conference?

SG: I think I have already answered [this]. I am very much grateful for the Kuwaiti Government’s, particularly the Amir’s, such strong commitment to humanity. Without his such strong leadership and engagement, this conference itself might not have been possible. We hosted the first meeting here, second meeting here. We really wanted to do it somewhere else, but it was very difficult at this time. Then I appealed personally, and Valerie Amos and also my Humanitarian Envoy, Dr. [Abdullah] al Matouq, we all appealed to his Highness. Then his Highness gladly accepted for the third time.

You have seen today, all day long, how many international partners came and wholeheartedly supported [the conference]. As I said, this is what the international community, citizens of the world, should do – political leaders, business leaders and NGOs, civil society leaders, philanthropic organizations, international and regional organizations. And I am very much grateful for all of this.

When there are many conflicts are taking place all around the world – you have so many burning fires in Africa and elsewhere – it is very difficult to mobilize such humanitarian assistance. We have 50 million refugees at this time. Four million are from Syria. Altogether more than 16 million Syrian people are in need of this humanitarian assistance. Therefore, I am deeply grateful and the Syrian people should be very proud of being such great humanitarians of the world. Shukran.

Q: [in Arabic]

SG: We are delivering humanitarian assistance inside and outside of Syria. Unfortunately, because of limited access and difficulty in access, there are still 5 million Syrian people inside Syria where we do not have access. This creates a serious problem. The most difficult issue and challenge in delivering humanitarian assistance is access – that is the main challenge. It is very difficult to move supplies inside Syria due to continued fighting, and also many checkpoints controlled by either Government or opposition forces or armed groups or extremists. So it is very difficult.

Sixty-nine humanitarian workers were killed last year. They are from the United Nations, NGOs and Syrian Red Crescent, only in 2014. This is a very serious problem. That is why the Security Council has taken two resolutions enforcing the delivery, across the boundaries, across the borders, but it has not been fully effective because of continuing fighting and different checkpoints controlled by other groups. We sincerely hope that this will be resolved so that the United Nations and humanitarian agencies, NGOs, Red Cross, they can freely deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to many people. Thank you very much.

Q: [in Arabic]

You have posed questions which may require, to answer, many, many hours. It’s not that easy to make a simple answer. On these situations in Libya, Syria and Yemen, I think those are the most serious concerns and challenges the international community is now facing and trying to address. As you may know, I have appointed – because of the urgency, seriousness, difficulty and complexity of these issues – Special Envoys for each of these [situations], Special Envoys for Libya, Syria and Yemen. I have met all of them individually and collectively while attending the League of Arab States Summit Meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh. Indeed, the situation in Yemen dominated the whole proceedings of League of Arab States Summit Meeting. Of course Libya and Syria were also heavily, deeply discussed by the leaders.

What is important at this time is that people are not trying to resolve their problems through dialogue and based on inclusive dialogue – they are using military force before dialogue even starts. That is the problem. In every society there are differences of positions. Even in your family, not all family members are in agreement over something. Then, in big communities, countries, it is only natural that human society will have problems. But these problems should be resolved through dialogue, peacefully, before resorting to violent means.

Now, on Yemen, I have taken note that GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries have undertaken a military operation. And I issued my statement – while I have taken note that it was done at the request of sovereign and legitimate President [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi, but it is also very important to remember that the Security Council has been repeatedly asking, urging, encouraging, to resolve this issue through dialogue.

Syria – again, the parties are, using all the times, weapons and arms, violent means, without sitting down together. I was able to only convene one meeting in Geneva and my Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was able to convene several rounds of meetings. That’s all. There have been no such attempts to resolve this [conflict through] dialogue.

In Libya, I think we have seen more encouraging progress, through continuing dialogue facilitated by my Special Envoy. Then, there were meetings in Brussels and Geneva and Morocco. Another meeting will be held in Morocco, and I am told that there has been much progress. I hope there will be much faster progress in these issues. What is important, I am repeating again: the military means, operations may be sometimes necessary and efficient, but most important thing is that everything should be resolved through dialogue, through political resolution. There can be peace and stability, but without political agreement, this cannot be sustainable. This can be only temporary. So we need to have lasting solutions through political dialogue. That is my continuing position and we will continue to resolve this issue through peaceful means. Thank you. Shukran jazeelan.

Q: [in Arabic]

First of all, all of the money [provided] by Member-States or other partners will be used to the very purpose, every single dollar will be used for the purpose of humanitarian support. We are here – all of these distinguished leaders of United Nations agencies, starting from the Office [for the Coordination] of Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator, High Commissioner for Refugees, Commissioner-General of UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and Director-General of WHO [World Health Organization] and UNDP [UN Development Programme] Administrator, Executive Administrator of World Food Programme. I had a meeting with ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] President, all regional organizations.

This money will be used by all these organizations and agencies for the very purpose [of helping] needy people. This money will be used very transparently and in an accountable way. There will be clear monitoring [on] how the money will be used. We have seen the Prime Ministers and Ministers of the five refugee-accommodating countries, starting from Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. All this money will be [used as] support to refugees and people inside and outside of Syria. Thank you.