Australia must support new deal on Syria

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello has called on the Australian Government to double its intake of Syrian refugees and double the level of aid for Syrian relief programs.

Mr Costello welcomed comments by Australian business leaders who have urged the Turnbull Government to double the Syrian refugee intake to 25,000 as Australia’s “fair share”. He also joined the Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for aid and humanitarian NGOs, in calling for Australia to double humanitarian aid for Syria.

“In the global world in which we live, we must not shirk our fair share,” Mr Costello said. “People who have seen the tragedy that is unfolding in Syria find that they cannot turn away.

“I particularly welcome the comment by Tony Shepherd, former president of the Business Council of Australia, that it is painfully obvious that Australia can and should do more.”

Mr Costello’s comments come as a global coalition of more than 90 humanitarian and human rights group urged world leaders meeting in London to commit to a multi-billion dollar new deal for Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them in the region.

The coalition, representing leading humanitarian agencies including World Vision, said that to be a success, the conference - co-hosted by the UK, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the UN - must deliver a bold new plan for Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them.

As the Syrian crisis enters its sixth year and ongoing suffering reaches historic proportions in scale and intensity, warring parties continue to commit war crimes, including besiegement and targeting of civilians; 13.5 million people inside Syria are in need of emergency relief; and, on average, 50 Syrian families have been uprooted from their homes every hour of every day since the conflict began in 2011.

Mr Costello said the Syrian crisis was not just a humanitarian disaster, but a failure of international leadership. “Much more must be done to support the millions of Syrians affected by this disastrous conflict and the countries that are sheltering them,” Mr Costello said. “The judgment of history will not be kind to countries that look away.”

Humanitarian leaders have called for London to be a step-change in the scale and ambition of the international response, for world leaders to go beyond the “drip-feed” of insufficient aid, and for refugees to be afforded the opportunity to work and educate their children.

Specifically, the coalition called for the conference to: deliver significant new multi-year funding; unlock new partnerships between governments, financial institutions, the private sector and civil society; and lay the foundations for eventual recovery and growth.

“Syrians are facing a war without law and a war without end," said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. "The latest harrowing scenes from the besieged town of Madaya and the rising pressure on neighbouring states need to spur political leaders to act.”

Rouba Mhaissen, founder of Sawa for Development and Aid, said it would not be enough simply to pledge more money, though it was urgently needed. “London must represent a step-change in the scale and ambition of the international response,” she said. “After five years, it's time to go beyond the drip-feed of insufficient humanitarian assistance.”

The UN is appealing for US$7.73 billion to respond to the Syria crisis, while regional governments' national response plans require a further US$1.2 billion. Last year, UN appeals were less than 60 percent funded. Australia contributed $67.7 million (US$44.3m) to the crisis last year. Australia’s “fair share” has been put at $178.2 million (US$125.1m).

The coalition said that a new deal for Syria should include additional multi-year funding to meet immediate and longer-term needs of refugees and the countries hosting them; and increased protection of civilians inside and outside of Syria including an end to attacks on homes, schools and medical facilities, siege tactics and the obstruction of humanitarian aid.

Barriers to work and essential services such as health care should be removed in refugee-hosting countries; Syrian refugee children, and children in the communities hosting them, should have access to quality and safe education; and international financial institutions and business leaders should be assisted to invest in the region's economic recovery and growth.


For World Vision Australia comment, contact: Stuart Rintoul: +61 (0) 407 241 492



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