Statement by Pekka Haavisto, Minister for International Development at an International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait

15 January 2014

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Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

Despite all that has been said about the humanitarian consequences of the Syria crisis, the human suffering of ordinary Syrians and the burden on the societies and economies of the neighboring countries is difficult to understand. I arrive here straight from Jordan and Lebanon, where I have been able to see for myself the impact of the crisis on the refugees themselves as well as the communities hosting them in an extraordinarily welcoming way. From here, I will continue on to Turkey. We appreciate the efforts of these countries, as well as those of Iraq and Egypt in dealing with the refugee crisis.

It is clear that the international community must do its utmost to reach a durable political solution in Syria. In the meantime, we have the responsibility to continue generous humanitarian assistance while scaling up development aid to help build resilience in the countries whose local services have been dramatically eroded by the mass influx of refugees.

In Syria, the human rights situation is worsening and an increasing number of civilians are facing a combination of conflict and collapse of basic services. Violations of international humanitarian principles and law and systematic attacks on medical facilities and personnel have become a norm. Our sincere appreciation goes to the humanitarian workers on the ground who, despite all this, have been able to expand humanitarian assistance.

Finland calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations to protect civilians and abide by the rules of international humanitarian and human rights laws. There must be no impunity. Humanitarian assistance must reach all people in need, regardless of their cultural, political or other affiliations. We are particularly concerned about the situation of those who are most vulnerable, including children, the aged and persons with disabilities.

We thank Syria's neighbors for their generosity in the face of the escalating refugee crisis and encourage them to continue to keep their borders open to all those fleeing Syria, including Palestinians, many of them refugees twice over. The UNRWA deserves the international community's full support in fulfilling its mandate.

The neighboring countries need all possible support from the international community. We also welcome the comprehensive regional strategy, calling for development and humanitarian actors to work closer together in responding to the crisis.

Finland provided 16,3 million Euros of humanitarian assistance and 3,5 million Euros  of development aid in response to the Syria crisis last year. Today, Finland will pledge 7 million Euros to be channeled through the UNHCR, WFP and non-governmental organizations, and we will consider further funding to respond to both humanitarian and development needs later this year.

Finally, I would like to thank His Highness, the Emir of Kuwait for once again hosting this conference. I also note with great respect the generous funding which has made Kuwait one of the world's leading humanitarian donors. I would also like to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Under-Secretary-General Amos and High Commissioner Guterres for their tireless efforts in bringing assistance to those in need. Finland fully supports OCHA and the UNHCR in their coordinating roles in responding to the humanitarian and refugee crises.

Thank you.