Australia’s pledge of humanitarian aid to Syria has been put into perspective by the generosity of other rich countries, and further funding must be committed as soon as possible, Oxfam said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s confirmation last night that $25 million would be given to the Syria crisis and Iraq was dwarfed by countries such as Norway, which contributed $392m (US$280m) for 2016, with a commitment to provide a total of $1.6bn (US$1.1bn) over the next four years.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke welcomed the Foreign Minister’s announcement of as yet un-costed plans for a more dependable multi-year funding approach, but urged the Australian Government to be more ambitious about the level of funding on the table for this year and in future years.
“Australia’s aid will provide essentials like food, shelter and protection to Syrians, but with millions in need both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, more is needed,” Dr Szoke said.
“Donor countries like Germany, which gave $1.8bn (€1.2bn), and the United Kingdom, which pledged to give an extra $2.4bn (GBP1.2bn) between now and 2020, have upped the ante on the Syria response. Australia needs to be realistic about the scale of support that is needed and commit its fair share of funding, which is $178m.
“This conference was a missed opportunity for Australia to offer hope to hundreds of thousands more people who have been living with the impact of this crisis for five years.”
Despite the extraordinary level of humanitarian need, and calls for increased assistance, Australia has given less than 14 per cent of its fair share for 2016. And if reports on the breakdown of $20m to Syria and $5m to Iraq are correct, Australia’s pledge to Syria is just 11 per cent of its fair share.
A total of $7.8bn (US$5.6bn) was pledged at the London donor conference, just over half of the $13.1bn needed this year. Additional pledges of a further $7bn (US$5.1bn) of multi-year funding were made until 2020.
“We welcome the move by the Australian Government towards a multi-year funding approach, which will provide certainty and allow long-term strategic planning,” Dr Szoke said.
“We know from experience that multi-year funding models allow organisations like Oxfam to focus not just on the immediate lifesaving needs but also on the longer term needs of the communities involved.
“We also welcome estimates that more than 1 million jobs will be created in the region by 2018. Indications that Syria’s neighbours will allow refugees to work must rapidly translate into action.
“Ultimately, there needs to be an end to the massive human rights violations in Syria. Australia and other countries must bring all diplomatic efforts to bear as the peace talks in Geneva are faltering and the violence continues unabated.”
For interviews with Helen Szoke please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org