International response to Syria failing on ‘every front’ – Oxfam

The international response to Syria is failing on three fronts – insufficient aid, meagre resettlement offers and continued arms transfers – international aid agency Oxfam warns in a report published today.

Oxfam is calling on the UN to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Syria and is urging governments of rich countries to provide their fair share of aid, and offer a haven to greater numbers of refugees fleeing violence.

The report, A Fairer Deal for Syrians, details how the $7.7 billion humanitarian appeals are less than half funded, while a continued supply of arms is fuelling widespread violations and undermining peace efforts. Rich countries are offering a safe haven to a paltry number of refugees from Syria while neighbouring countries are struggling to support more than 3 million people who have fled the conflict.

According to Oxfam’s report, the New Zealand Government has contributed 34 per cent of its fair share of aid toward global appeals in 2014 (appeals made by the UN, Red Cross and host governments). This places New Zealand just under the midrange for contributions out of the 32 countries profiled. The report also states that New Zealand has pledged 19 per cent of its fair share of refugee places – to be filled by the end of 2015 – which positions it in the highest third of countries offering to relocate refugees.

New Zealand has also just ratified the new global Arms Trade Treaty, calling for all transfers of arms and ammunition to be subject to stringent controls.

Russia, a major arms exporter to Syria, has committed only one per cent of its fair share of aid. France and the USA have provided just 33 per cent and 60 per cent of their fair share respectively and are continuing to supply arms, undermining efforts to stop the conflict. Many Gulf countries are giving more than their fair share but need to do more to stop arms flowing. Other generous donors include the UK and Denmark.

Germany, Austria and Australia are the only wealthy countries to have offered to relocate their fair share of refugees so far; almost all the other rich countries are falling short.

Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, said: “This is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and the international community’s response is falling far short on every front. In Syria, a steady flow of Kalashnikovs, bombs and missiles is fuelling terrible violations, while aid only trickles through to those who so desperately need it. 

“Neighbouring countries are hosting millions of refugees, many in desperate need of shelter, healthcare, food and water.

“Yet there has been no embargo on arms and ammunition and few states have stepped up to offer protection to even a small number of refugees. The international community needs to wake up to its responsibilities towards the victims of this conflict.”

Oxfam is calling for five percent of the projected refugee population to be resettled or offered humanitarian admission to rich countries by the end of 2015. Each rich country should take their fair share of the total based on the size of their economy.

Three and a half years on, the generosity of neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan is at breaking point, and refugees and poor communities are paying the price.

Baker said: “The international community’s inadequate approach to the Syrian conflict is failing the millions of people who have fled torture, massacres and barrel bombs and those facing a terrifying future inside Syria. They have been abandoned by the international community and are living in desperate conditions in a daily battle to survive.”

The report also encourages authorities in the region to ensure that those fleeing violence can reach safety and, given the long term nature of the crisis, find opportunities to work and support their families. 

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