A year on from the first international donor conference for Syria’s refugees, Kuwait has again gathered the international community to pledge money for the victims of Syria’s brutal civil war. The sums are astronomical: the United Nations is hoping to raise US$6.5 billion this year. But then the crisis is on an unimaginable scale, with more than nine million Syrians displaced from their homes. And still the fighting continues in Syria, as does the bickering among the opposition, who have not even decided whether they will attend the Geneva talks this month.
Ahead of the conference, the charity Oxfam produced an analysis of “fair share” funding for the Syrian crisis, looking at whether countries were offering more or less aid than they should, as measured by a percentage of gross national income. Unsurprisingly, the Arab countries topped the list: Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait were providing far more aid than their fair share. In the case of Jordan, which is hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, the numbers were extraordinary, more than 12,000 per cent of its fair share. The UAE and other Gulf countries also continue to give generously.
This goes to the heart of the reasons why the Arab states have been so committed to ending the conflict, because the effect of the refugee crisis is being felt first and foremost in the Arab world and Turkey. It is to Jordan and Lebanon that most Syrian refugees have fled, two countries that were already facing infrastructure problems before the refugees swelled their numbers.
Beyond that, the Arab countries have poured money into alleviating the effects of the conflict. This week, the UAE’s “5-star camp” in Jordan drew praise from the UN. But a well-equipped refugee camp is still a refugee camp, and the priority should be to find a solution to the crisis that will allow Syria’s citizens to return home.
A military solution, which this newspaper has previously advocated, now seems both unpopular and perhaps even impossible. But a political solution is possible and this now needs to be the focus of both the international community and the opposition. Pouring money into containing the Syrian conflict is praiseworthy, but it is not a long-term solution.