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

Conclusions and recommendations

Humanitarian situation in Syria

1.  The scale of humanitarian need in Syria is vast. A wide range of organisations—UN organisations and others—are working in Syria in extremely dangerous circumstances. Organisations such as WFP, which is able to deliver food assistance for around 65p per person per day, are providing exceptional value for money. We commend the brave men and women working on the ground in Syria to provide humanitarian assistance. We were interested to hear that DFID was considering delivering more of its assistance through NGOs. (Paragraph 18)

2.  We warmly welcome the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2139 (2014). In view of the manifest failure of last October's UN Security Council Presidential Statement, a Resolution was the only option. We are nevertheless concerned that certain parties may not abide by the resolution: groups such as al-Nusra and ISIS do not recognise the UN. We are also concerned about the bureaucratic restrictions which prevent NGOs from delivering humanitarian assistance in Syria. Where NGOs are ready, willing and able to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance, the Government should use every means possible to help them to obtain permission to operate in Syria, and to help their staff to obtain visas. (Paragraph 19)

Humanitarian situation in neighbouring countries

3.  The countries bordering Syria have taken in an extraordinary number of refugees. In countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, organisations working to provide assistance face a very challenging situation. We fully support the efforts of such organisations. (Paragraph 22)

4.  As the Minister of State rightly highlighted, maintaining the stability of Jordan is critical. DFID should launch a development programme in Jordan for the medium-term, in addition to its existing humanitarian work and support to municipalities. We look at how to implement this programme below. (Paragraph 24)

5.  In countries bordering Syria, it would be a mistake for donors to provide assistance to refugees without also providing assistance to host communities. Doing so would almost inevitably lead to an increase in tensions between the two groups: if their own needs were neglected, poor families in host communities would understandably feel resentful towards refugees receiving international assistance. In Lebanon and Jordan, DFID should ensure that its humanitarian assistance benefits needy host communities as well as refugees. (Paragraph 26)

6.  We are concerned that refugees in host communities receive disproportionately little international assistance by comparison with those in refugee camps, possibly because aid in refugee camps is easier to provide. In countries bordering Syria, DFID must ensure that an appropriate share of its humanitarian aid reaches refugees in host communities, who make up 85% of the total Syrian refugee population. DFID should also monitor levels of child marriage and domestic violence in these communities. (Paragraph 29)

7.  The astonishingly high number of Syrian children who are out of school is cause for grave concern. If an entire generation of children is unable to complete its education, the long-term implications for the stability of Syria and the wider region will be very serious indeed. Ensuring that Syrian refugee children receive an adequate education should remain a top priority for DFID. DFID should allocate additional funds to support the operation of "double shifts" in schools. To support children who are unable to enrol in school, DFID should scale up its support for informal learning mechanisms such as "family-friendly spaces." DFID should also allocate additional funds for the provision of psychosocial support, to enable traumatised children to re-engage with education. (Paragraph 34)

8.  The Jordanian Government's reluctance to allow Syrian refugees to work is entirely understandable, especially given the risk of rising unemployment amongst the native Jordanian population. However, allowing Syrian refugees to work would have many potential benefits, especially in the case of skilled professionals such as doctors and teachers. Whilst recognising the inherent political sensitivities of the issue, we recommend that the UK encourage the Government of Jordan to allow Syrian refugees to work. (Paragraph 37)

9.  DFID should use the National Resilience Plan and the Economic and Social Impact Assessment as the basis of its assistance to Jordan and Lebanon respectively. (Paragraph 40)

Donor funding

10.  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. (Paragraph 46)

11.  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. (Paragraph 47)

12.  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. (Paragraph 50)

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Prepared 2 July 2014