UK Support for Humanitarian Relief in the Middle East - International Development Committee Contents


The Syrian Civil War has given rise to a grave humanitarian crisis. Since the crisis began, the UK has committed £600 million in humanitarian assistance, making it the second-largest bilateral donor to the relief effort. A number of other European countries including France, Spain and Italy have manifestly failed to pull their weight in this respect. The UK should do everything in its power to encourage other countries to increase their contributions to the humanitarian relief effort. We received strong representations that stressed the case for supporting Syrian refugees in the region, allowing them to remain close to their livelihoods with a possibility of returning to Syria. Clearly there are some people with extreme needs whom the UK should accommodate. Only 24 have come so far, and we hope that the UK will continue this process in a constructive and compassionate way.

The UK's annual spending on its response to the crisis has increased steadily and now stands at approximately £300m per year. This increase has been made possible by the fact that the UK's total Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget has itself been increasing, reaching 0.7% of GNI in 2013. Now that the 0.7% target has been reached, spending will not continue to increase at the same rate. If DFID continues to prioritise humanitarian spending in the Middle East, this will have implications for DFID's spending in other parts of the world. DFID tells us that it has a contingency for responding to humanitarian crises, but it has not been willing to tell us how big this contingency is. We urge it to be more transparent.

The UK's response to the Syria crisis covers not only Syria itself, but also neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan to which many Syrians have fled. In these countries, most Syrian refugees are residing in towns and villages rather than in formal refugee camps, yet there is a tendency for donors to focus disproportionately on the camps; DFID must avoid falling into this trap. We also recommend that DFID use national plans as the basis for its assistance to Lebanon and Jordan, and that it prioritise education for Syrian refugee children.

With reference to Jordan in particular, it is imperative to ensure that stability is maintained: we therefore recommend that the UK launch a medium-term development programme in addition to its humanitarian work. The UK should also encourage the Government of Jordan to allow Syrian refugees to work: whilst we fully understand their present reluctance, we believe that allowing refugees to work, and hence generate tax revenues, would be of great benefit to Jordan.

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Prepared 2 July 2014