Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

UAE’s role in humanitarian agenda praised by European Commissioner

Christos Stylianides said the UAE is the only Gulf country with a fully fledged Ministry of International Cooperation and Development.

A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border into Turkey at the town of Suruc, Sanliurfa. Bulent Kilic / AFP
A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border into Turkey at the town of Suruc, Sanliurfa. Bulent Kilic / AFP

DUBAI // There is no end in sight to the overwhelming scale of destruction and human suffering caused by conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya, said the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management on Monday.

Christos Stylianides said the UAE played a key role in shaping the international humanitarian agenda as the only Arabian Gulf country with a fully-fledged Ministry of International Cooperation and Development.

“The number of Syrian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries will soon reach four million, putting enormous strain on the economies and societies of these countries,” he said in an exclusive interview.

“Ultimately, we need a political solution to these crises, but in the meantime, it is the responsibility of all of us to join forces and alleviate the human suffering, provide assistance and protection to this huge number of refugees and other vulnerable people. Humanitarian assistance alone cannot cope with the magnitude of these crises.”

Mr Stylianides is in the UAE for the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference (Dihad) today.

“In my speech, I will focus on the growing complexities we face in these times of multiple and competing high-level emergencies, and the need to work in a more coordinated way to address these challenges,” he said. “We need to build on the shared values of solidarity and compassion, and invest in diversified partnerships.

“Today, more than ever, we need to reach out across borders and beyond traditional modes of operation, and we also need to intensify the link between humanitarian and development aid, in order to ensure sustainability and resilience of populations affected by crises.”

He visited International Humanitarian City (IHC) yesterday.

“My goal is to further enhance Europe’s cooperation with the Arab donors and humanitarian actors, by building a strong relationship of trust,” he said.

“It is an opportunity for me to meet some of the key players as I advance further into my mandate, and exchange ideas with them on how to meet the global challenges which affect us all.

“It is important for me to visit the region and get a sense first-hand of what the possibilities are, in order to provide guidance and feed into our own humanitarian policies and strategies for the region.”

Shaima Al Zarooni, IHC chief executive, spoke of a productive discussion. “It lays the groundwork for our future collaborations, partnership and humanitarian efforts to better fight natural and man-made disasters, by promoting cooperation and mutual action,” she said.

“We are proud to hear the commissioner’s positive remarks towards UAE efforts and the IHC, and together we shall better be able to implement emergency response and execution plans to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability in our humanitarian work.”

On the UAE, Mr Stylianides said: “It is one of the top 10 donors for the Syria crisis.”

His mission at Dihad will be to take stock. “It is a chance to exchange information and to hear from other donors what they see as priorities for crises in the region, notably on the Syria crisis,” he said.

“The current humanitarian situation in the region is appalling. More than 12.2 million people are in need of urgent assistance inside Syria, 5.2m in Iraq, and close to 4m refugees in neighbouring countries. These numbers are continuing to rise.”