Don’t Forget About Syria

In Kuwait on March 31, the international community pledged more than $3.3 billion to alleviate suffering brought on by the crisis in Syria. The pledges, which included $508 million from the United States, will help millions of people affected by the crisis this year, but they did not meet the $8.4 billion dollars needed under UN appeals.  This gap between needs and resources raises important issues about the most severe crisis of our time. Here are five of them: 

Prepare for the long haul.  Now more than four years old, the Syrian humanitarian crisis must increasingly compete for donor dollars and political attention against the needs of other, newer conflicts, such as the crisis in Yemen.  But Syria must remain at the top of the agenda, and more funding is still urgently needed. With four million refugees and 12.2 million people inside Syria needing assistance, we simply can’t afford to let our attention drift.

Get aid in.  For aid workers and medical personnel, Syria has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The Asad regime is largely to blame for this, as it continues to block aid, besiege communities, and expel or attack aid workers. Case in point: In the last four years, the Asad regime is responsible for the vast majority of attacks on hospitals and the unlawful killing of more than 600 medical workers, many of whom were systematically targeted, according to the Physicians for Human Rights. ISIL and other extremist groups have exploited this regime-generated chaos, adding to the onslaught against civilians and aid workers. We must do all we can to get aid to those who need it and to protect humanitarians – not only to save lives, but to prevent others around the world from imitating these tactics.

Address neighboring countries’ development needs. It is not enough to provide conflict victims with water, food, medical care, and shelter.  Right now, every fourth resident of Lebanon is a Syrian refugee, which means that all community resources are stretched -- from overcrowded schools to overtaxed electricity grids. And Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt are also strained.  We have to figure out how to shore up the economies and infrastructures of Syria’s neighbors.

Middle Eastern countries beyond Syria’s immediate neighbors must also show leadership. Kuwait deserves enormous credit for hosting the donor conference for the third time and pledging an additional $500 million.  Other countries from the region should step up -– not just with funding, but also with greater efforts to find a political solution. No one has a greater interest fostering peace.

Don’t give up on a political solution. Humanitarian aid will not solve the Syria crisis. What is needed is a negotiated political transition that ends Syrians’ suffering and fulfills their aspirations for freedom and dignity. That means Asad and ISIL can have no role in the country’s future. And it means countries have to stop supporting Asad. “By partnering with Asad, these countries make themselves partners in the regime’s atrocities,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said in her remarks in Kuwait.

U.S. diplomats are focused on addressing all of these issues as a matter of highest priority.  As Ambassador Power said, “The greatest humanitarian crisis in a generation demands the response of a generation.” It’s a call to action we cannot ignore.

About the Author: About the Author: Anne C. Richard serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Follow her on Twitter at @StatePRM.



Adam N.
April 16, 2015
Prayers for the good people of Yarmouk. The call for residents to leave is not the optimal solution. i.e. Temporary displacement could become permanent. It is a stop gap measure only. A multi-faceted approach is required for Syria. A balance of sefirotic qualities. i.e. Real co-operative ceasefires (Not SAA inspired satanic "Kneel or Starve" humiliating surrenders/capitulations) and de-escalation nationwide ASAP. Yarmouk is a test case/microcosm of the entire Syrian Civil War. (To put it another way, when a patient is wheeled into emergency for triage the doctor will check the vital signs to get an indication of the condition of the person's whole body. Yarmouk is the vital signs. Syria is the whole body.) Certain people are trying to push the "Evacuation En Masse" scenario right now. Why ? They want to control the area. How will they do it ? (1) Yarmouk is evacuated completely. (2) Non SAA/Assad Aligned groups, like JAN, The Islamic Front fill the void. (See how Scipio tricked Hannibal's elephants by creating a gap in the frontlines at the Battle of Zama.) (3) The SAA then barrel bombs the camp to smithereens killing many of the "enemy" in the process. (4) The SAA takes over. (5) The result...18,000 more internally displaced people to house, clothe and feed. The Syrian Civil War continues. No chance any of the "sides" wins any time soon. Ongoing deaths, maimings and injuries. Spillover effect to other nations continues, i.e. Terrorist attacks, cross border jihadists, disease, refugees etc. etc. The UN must answer these two questions 24/7 re. Yarmouk & Syria. (An Oversight Team of 42 persons is needed. "ITOCS2020") What is important ? What is urgent ? I believe the situation can be redeemed/counter-balanced if the right moves are made in the coming hours and days. The forces of reason and moderation must prevail. Many people forget that the Al Nusra Front headed by Abu Mohammad al-Julani's أبو محمد الجولاني, helped secure the release of the Maloula Christian Nuns in early March 2014. Thus there is a chance that Aknaf al Maqdis, the PFLP-GC, Fatah al-Intifada, the SAA, JAN, Jaysh al Islam and the NCSRO (ISIL is a "Bridge too Far" perhaps ? Baghdadi and Hudna in the same breath ?) can co-operate for the benefit of the people of Yarmouk. The role of UNRWA and the UN Special Envoy to Syria's team, including Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy who is in Damascus is vital at the moment. Believe it or not, the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Gaza City and Doha have a pivotal role to play in ending the Syrian Civil War. P.S. See the heartwarming photo of Pierre K., mother and child. reports/yarmouk-situation-update-2 "Where there is life there is hope"
Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
April 16, 2015

@ Anne Richard,

“By partnering with Asad, these countries make themselves partners in the regime’s atrocities,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said in her remarks in Kuwait. - See more at:

I've been hammering that point home for years now on this blog and it's good to finally see the logic verbalized by a senior official. Now can we call the ugly totality of those atrocities "genocide" to make it legally unsustainable to support Assad's government in any material way?

In some respects I think Diplomats are putting the cart before the horse talking about a "political solution"....when the only way you can get there from here is the utter military defeat of both Assad's forces and ISIL's, along with Al Nusra and other terrorist orgs in Syria. A complete internationally supported, coalition enabled to execute that utter military defeat, so that eventually those millions of displaced can return home to rebuild their lives in peace and become part of that political transition as it happens in real time.

I would suggest further that one would see a "Marshal Plan" as critical to sustainability of the population in transition, above and beyond what is being pledged today in aid. The question then logicly follows, Shouldn't those that supported Assad with the means to destro his nation be most responsible for assisting the Syrian people in the rebuilding of it?

I don't see the Russians and Iranians writing a check for a cool Trillion dollars to do right by the Syrian people anytime soon, but that's about what I think it would cost.

Seems like folks are simply letting Assad's forces and the various terrorist org.'s to fight it out and weaken each other at the expense of resolving the conflict unconditionally, by creating the peace from scratch when no one is in a position to continue the fighting.

That will require a military solution before diplomacy can conjure up a political path forward that does not include Assad or ISIL...or their ilk.

Best thing you can do right now is make sure 10 million Syrian refugees have a voice in the matter, train them up so that you have some civil servant capacity to draw upon, and if successful...your political transition will be aided by the more organized restoration of the infrastructure a government responsive to its people depends on to function.

Syria will require a decade of sustained commitment, "occupied" by regional forces to keep the peace as a mandate of its UN protectorate status....due to the entire legal basis for military intervention meets the criteria of "Responsibility to Protect"- UNGA 2005

Considering the effect of millions of displaced on Syria's neighbors, the threat to stability and economic sustainability, I don't think folks really have years to experiment with negotiating in Geneva for a third time given that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results from Assad doesn't take a genius to tell you that might meet the definition of insanity.

I will never understand why Assad could be persuaded to give up his chemical weapons but no one could convince him to stop the barrel bombing, scud launching, artillery barrages, clorine gas attacks, deliberate mass starvation and denial of aid to cities, while folks might say what a great thing getting the weapons out of his hands's somewhat of a capitulation being it has left Assad in power to continue his atrocities, and obviously no good has come from that judging by the ever rising death toll since.

I don't see it as a failure or success of policy...just that policy did not go far enough to address the core issues at a time when it might not have required the massive undertaking to solve that this crisis does today.

On the whole, I'm sure there some folks who honestly can claim a failure of imagination of how bad the Syria crisis would become, but 20/20 hindsight won't get this problem licked, only the combined will of nations can do that, and they gotta be "all in" and cooperate for the common goood to do it right the first time.

   If folks can't pony up their aid pledges in a timely manner, I'd say we gotta long way to go before this crisis gets put to bed.

 EJ 3/16/15

Benjamin N.
April 16, 2015
It is time now both parts to seriously negotiate this people is at end end of unsupportable ! No one could win by force in this crisis be wise ! And this stay the danger of all the region ; all Middle East countries are concerned ; wars are for destroying and when we support them we are complias .
Mike C.
United States
April 16, 2015
Samantha Power is despicable. "What is needed is a negotiated political transition" -- but the only one you will accept is one that involves the overthrow of an elected government. Normally, a "negotiated political transition" is called an "election," but if you don't like the winner, your next option is always a violent one. And in the case of Syria, you and your proxies created ISIS in order to get your desired "transition." What will you do for an encore?
April 16, 2015
Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
April 18, 2015
"Do no harm" I guess Dr. Asad didn't learn that in medical school. He needs to go back to medical school and learn not to kill people. I guess his teacher at his medical school must be very proud of him now. A life of helping people, turned in to a life of killing them. Nice Job President Asad !
Joe M.
California, USA
September 8, 2015
Please do let refugees enter the United States, we have no more room in this country. 70,000 since 2013?? These foreigners are ruining this country. They cannot conform to our way of life and are draining our economy. These kind of descions need to be made by a national vote.
Syrian Refugees Cross the Orontes River from Syria to Turkey
Posted by Anne C. Richard
April 15, 2015


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