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

4  Donor funding

41. The UK has made a sizeable financial contribution to the humanitarian effort in Syria and the surrounding countries. Since the crisis began, the UK has committed £600 million, including funding for Syria itself (see Chapter 2), funding for the neighbouring countries (see Chapter 3), and funding whose allocation is still to be finalised.[73] The UK's annual spending on its response to the crisis has increased steadily and now stands at approximately £300m per year. [74] 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.[75]

42. The Minister of State told us that he expected DFID's annual spending on the Syria crisis to remain broadly stable for "the next year or two."[76] He went on to say that whilst DFID's spending on the Syria crisis had not yet affected its spending on bilateral programmes, there may be some effect in the future:

    As our budget has plateaued and other lumps of money have been put into things such as the [new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund], we are not as flush as we have been over the last two or three years. Whereas I am not saying that the Syrian crisis is necessarily going to have a detrimental impact on bilateral agreements - maybe you can take some from the multilateral alternatives - there are going to be some difficult choices anyway, even if there were not a Syrian humanitarian problem.[77]

43. We asked the Minister of State to clarify DFID's overall budget for responding to humanitarian crises, but he was reluctant to provide a figure:

    Whereas it is logical to perhaps ring­fence or commit a percentage to what are predictable continuous programme objectives, humanitarian spending is less susceptible to that certainty. We are already of course asked to commit 30% of our budget towards fragility and stability. We are in danger of ending up with a lot of overlapping, slightly illogical, incoherent percentages all bumping into each other […] we have a contingency for the unexpected earthquake or cyclone. I am pretty confident that, by and large, particularly if the Syrian problem remains—and heaven knows there is enough going on in Africa—we will probably end up spending something like 10% on humanitarian. However, to plan for it and demand it is a slightly different way of approaching the issue.[78]

44. In its written evidence, DFID highlights the UK Government's attempts to lobby other donor countries to match its commitment. In practice, however, many have failed to do so. The table below shows the commitments/contributions and pledges made by other EU member states since the crisis began.
Donor representative country USD committed/contributed USD pledged
United Kingdom 778,373,624 74,374,561
Germany 548,502,927 18,328,074
Sweden 108,841,232 8,889,064
Denmark 104,968,268 1,648,467
Netherlands 93,797,729 2,043,062
France 59,311,534 16,075,228
Italy 45,841,864 45,547,373
Finland 39,123,709 0
Belgium 31,738,407 0
Ireland 29,295,255 7,496,879
Spain 16,566,339 5,748,138
Luxembourg 15,260,700 1,979,973
Austria 11,373,474 0
Poland 3,800,494 800,000
Czech Republic 3,460,719 385,529
Estonia 1,715,415 73,267
Croatia 847,141 206,897
Hungary 735,151 0
Bulgaria 618,870 0
Romania 450,000 50,000
Portugal 433,702 0
Greece 394,223 0
Slovakia 199,331 97,225
Slovenia 196,634 0
Latvia 124,715 0
Lithuania 110,037 0
Malta 100,427 0
Cyprus 45,597 13,793

Source: adapted from UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service, 'Syrian Arab Republic— Civil Unrest' accessed 24 June 2014

45. The Minister of State told us:

    I have to say, I am seriously worried about the rise of donor fatigue. At the last meeting I was at, which was an officials' meeting about donor co-ordination, I sensed that this is going to be the real challenge of the next year or so, which is that the willingness of people to contribute is likely to peter out a bit. That makes it essential to argue that those who have not stepped up to the plate so far should do so now.[79]

46. With its humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, the UK has led the world: we commend the Government for its exemplary contribution. The UK has been able to increase its annual spending because its Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget has been increasing; now that the 0.7% target has been reached, spending will not continue to increase at the same rate. As the Minister of State highlighted, there are difficult choices ahead: 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. Whilst we accept that humanitarian crises are unpredictable, we recommend that DFID set a clear budget for its humanitarian spending. With the ODA budget capped at 0.7% of GNI transparency as to the apportionment of humanitarian and development spending is essential. DFID should tell us what the budget for humanitarian spending is in its response to this report. It should tell us how it sets about planning for humanitarian work; what contingencies it has; and at what point it would be unable to commit further resources to humanitarian work. Rather than simply telling us that it has a contingency, it should explicitly provide us with an annual figure as to what the contingency is.

47. In this context, it is ever more crucial that other donors fulfil their responsibilities. The contributions made by many other donor countries fall far short of that made by the UK. The Government should use every means possible to put pressure on other donor countries and encourage them to match the UK's commitment.

48. UNHCR is appealing to countries around the world to accept up to 30,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, either on humanitarian admission, resettlement or other programmes. Currently twenty countries have agreed to do so: Germany, for example, has accepted 10,000 refugees on humanitarian admission. [80]

49. The UK has been criticised in some quarters for not taking part.[81] However, the UK has launched its own Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme. The Government expects to accept several hundred refugees under this scheme, with a focus on the most vulnerable.[82] As at 13 May, 24 Syrians had arrived in the UK.[83] The Minister of State said: "We have tried […] to pick some of the most […] vulnerable and design a specialist approach to their acute needs. […] In my view, that is one up on the UNHCR scheme, rather than just an easy "Thank you very much; we will go along with it.""[84] He went on to say that "transplanting someone from a completely different cultural context, particularly when they are the most acute victims, is not necessarily always the very best and easiest way of putting them into a happy setting."[85]

50. 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. As at 13 May 24 had come, and we hope that the UK will continue this process in a constructive and compassionate way.

73   DFID, UK Aid Syria Response (June 2014), p 4 Back

74   DFID (MID0053) para 23 Back

75   DFID, Statistical Release: Provisional UK Official Development Assistance as a proportion of Gross National Income, 2013 (April 2014) , p 1 Back

76   Q 118 Back

77   Q 121 Back

78   Q 128 Back

79   Q 122 Back

80   UNHCR, Resettlement, Humanitarian Admission, and Other Forms of Admission for Syrian Refugees: 2013/2014 Pledges (February 2014)  Back

81   Christian Aid (MID0049) para 2.5.2 Back

82   "Syria: UK helps vulnerable refugees", Home Office press notice, 25 March 2014  Back

83   HC Deb, 13 May 2014, col 450W Back

84   Qq 153-4 Back

85   Q 155 Back

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Prepared 2 July 2014