29 September 2015, New York – Speech by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation, at the United Nations General Assembly Informal Ministerial Meeting on the Syrian Crisis, “Re-thinking the international response to the biggest crisis of our times – How to respond better to growing and evolving needs”
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The Syrian war is in its fifth year. Inside Syria, millions are desperately waiting for a political settlement. This must remain the priority for us all.
In the meantime, we must manage a situation where almost half the population is displaced either within Syria or in neighbouring countries. The majority of these are children.
We risk losing a generation of young Syrians that are being prevented from access to education. The cost of this is immeasurable: for them personally, as well as for the future of their country. They are the one who will be called upon to rebuild Syria and to heal the rifts caused by war.
Their struggle is also ours – because stability and peace in the whole region are at stake.
Syria’s youth cannot take on these challenges without a proper education. Education is and has always been a top priority for the EU. Since the outbreak of the war, we have provided 335 million Euros to projects in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to address the educational needs of children hosted in these countries, as well as, of course, similar projects in Syria itself.
This has helped UNICEF to reach 2 million Syrian children through its ‘Back to Learning’ campaign inside Syria, as well as to help 129,000 Syrian children to be admitted to public schools in Jordan and, similarly, 146,000 children in Lebanon.
Despite these efforts, we know that as the new school year started this month, more than 2.7 million children are still missing out. Without education, they are left without hope and without prospects; easy targets for radical and criminal groups. This explosive mix – lack of education, lack of perspective and the feeling of alienation – makes them susceptible to the ideology of terrorist organisations.
We are fully aware that more funding is needed, but funding is not the only problem. Capacity is also an issue. On occasion, there are difficulties in getting funds rapidly disbursed through administrative systems.
The European Union has spearheaded the international response with more than 4 billion Euros mobilised by the European Commission and EU Member States so far.
But the influx of refugees from Syria is a reflection of the fact that many Syrians are desperately searching for longer-term solutions to secure a better future. It also serves as a reminder that this is a global challenge that we are all facing.
In order to strengthen our response, the European Union set up the EU Regional Trust Fund for the Syrian crisis in December 2014. It merges our financial resources into one single and flexible mechanism.
The unique regional focus of the EU Trust Fund allows us to respond all along the migration routes, including Turkey and the Western Balkans. And it allows our partners to contribute.
The European Commission just put an extra 300 million Euros into the Trust Fund. I strongly invite all donors (from the EU and outside) to match the EU’s contribution and bring the Trust Fund to at least one billion. This is crucial to ease the lives of refugees and relieve the pressure on their host communities.
I am proud of our track record in Syria and elsewhere! Our task is huge and so is our responsibility. The cost, if we fail, will be very high, not only for Syria but for the region and beyond.
I conclude by applauding the great efforts undertaken by Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. You can count on my and the European Union’s commitment to continue helping you.
EU source: European Union
UN forum: General Assembly
| Top |