Break-through at St Petersburg summit needed to give hope of a better future for millions of Syrians

5th Sep 2013

Leaders must set their differences aside and kick-start urgent political negotiations for Syria.

World leaders attending the G20 summit must seize this opportunity and make real progress on helping find a political solution to the Syria crisis, according to international aid agency Oxfam. 

The organisation says world leaders must not squander this key moment for peace - and is calling for the Syria Crisis to be high on the summit's agenda. Too many lives have been torn apart by the conflict, with more than 100,000 dead, two million refugees having fled to neighbouring countries, and the stability of the wider region at stake. 

With the threat of imminent military intervention and arms still pouring into the conflict, Oxfam believes now is a crucial moment for world leaders, particularly Presidents Putin and Obama, to overcome their differences and prioritise finding a political solution to the crisis. Military intervention at this stage will not help solve the conflict and instead merely risks making the humanitarian situation worse, says the organisation. 

Oxfam spokesperson Steve Price-Thomas, who is currently in St Petersburg, said: "Too many opportunities have been missed in recent months - and with the recent escalation and very real threat of military intervention, the timing of this G20 is critical. The eyes of the world are turned on St Petersburg to see whether leaders shoulder their responsibilities or instead choose to let ordinary Syrians down. 

"Leaders must not simply pay lip-service to peace - instead we urge them to set aside their differences and work together on this in a way we have not previously seen. For months Syrians have had the hope of a peace conference in Geneva dangled in front of them - leaders now must now turn that hope into a reality. They have a real chance to make a difference to the lives of millions of Syrians." 

Oxfam says the devastating humanitarian consequences of the Syria crisis continue to deepen each day. UNHCR has just announced that the number of refugees fleeing from Syria had now passed the two million mark. 

Also, earlier this week, a total of 265 Arab Civil Society Organisations wrote to G20 leaders calling on them to help deliver an immediate ceasefire and the Geneva peace conference.  In the special letter, organisations from 19 different countries, urged G20 members, particularly the US and Russia, to use their influence to encourage all parties to the conflict to come to the table to achieve a just and sustainable peace for all Syrians. 

The letter states: "The window of opportunity is closing, the Syrian people have suffered much too long.  As Arab voices we stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria. 

"We urge the international community, specifically the US and Russia to demonstrate strong leadership now to bring peace to Syria, and to our whole region." 
While the numbers of people affected by the crisis are increasing, the financial resources of the humanitarian community - including Oxfam - are already stretched to the limit. In June, the UN launched its biggest appeal ever, but it is so far only 41  per cent funded. 

The aid agency says in addition to prioritising a political solution to the crisis, G20 leaders must dig deep and respond to the need for increased funds to help finance the humanitarian response. 

Price-Thomas said: "The scale of the humanitarian crisis is already massive and every day that peace is delayed leads to more killing and suffering. 

"Many countries have already made generous contributions to the aid effort but it is simply not enough given at least half of the Syrian population has been affected by the conflict. 

"As well as making progress on finding a peaceful solution, G20 members must provide a significant increase in the long-term support they offer, in particular to neighbouring countries already hosting large numbers of refugees." 

ENDS 

Notes to editors: 

1.        For more information or to arrange interviews contact: 

Caroline Hooper-Box caroline.hooper-box@oxfaminternational.org +7-917-550-88-15 / 
+1 202 321 2967 

Natalia Vinogradova NVinogradova@oxfam.org.uk +7 916 606 6408 

2.        Member organizations of the following NGO networks across the Middle East  have signed the Civil Society letter to G20 leaders: 

·        Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) - Regional based in Lebanon 
·         Arab Coalition for Darfur (ACD) - Regional based in Cairo 
·        The non-violence network - based in Lebanon- across 17 Arab countries 
·        Arab Programme For Human Rights Activists (APHRA) - Regional based in Cairo 
·        Middle East non Violence and Democracy Network (MENAPPAC) - based in Lebanon- across 17 countries. 
·        Tadamoun Council - Egyptian CSO, based in Cairo. 
·        Libyan Organisation for Human Rights- Libyan, based in Tripoli. 
·        Shams Centre- OPT, based in Ramallah 
·        Confederation of Civil Society organisation- Sudan 
·        Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARRD) - Jordan, based in Amman. 
·        Civil rights Observation Centre - Sudan. 
·        Arms Control Campaign - MENA Region - based in Lebanon 
·        Permanent Peace Movement (PPM)- Lebanon 
·        Etana Relief organisation- Syrian - based in Lebanon. 
·        The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) - based in Cairo. 
·        The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) - Regional, based in Cairo 
·        The Syrian Non-Violent Movement, Syrian, based in London