Governments should not begin funding the reconstruction of Syria until there is a political solution, protection for Syrian organisations and progress towards respect for human rights, Oxfam said today. The warning comes ahead of a major conference co-hosted by the UK on the future of the war-ravaged nation, which takes place in Brussels over the next two days.
The international agency warns that conditions on political transition and the treatment of detainees and displaced people must be met before any aid is committed to rebuilding the country.
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said: "Six years of war and strife in Syria have forced over 11 million people from their homes and devastated the country and its economy. But the work of rebuilding must start on the solid foundations of a political solution and respect for human rights.
"While it is important to maintain humanitarian aid, providing funding to rebuild the country could do more harm than good if these fundamental conditions are not met."
The conference, Supporting the future of Syria and the region, follows up on the Syria conference held in London last February. Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel is one of more than 50 ministers expected to attend.
Despite being a key moment to discuss the aid response, Syrians who put their lives on the line to help their communities have again largely been prevented from contributing to the conference.
Oxfam is concerned that current discussions on reconstruction, and on so-called "safe zones", are motivated primarily by a desire to see refugees return to Syria. Any returns that are not voluntary or safe would run contrary to international law.
Last week, the UN revealed that the number of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting and registered in neighbouring countries has exceeded five million. Over six million people have fled their homes inside Syria while more than a million have sought safety in Europe and other countries outside the region.
Oxfam has repeatedly called for wealthy countries, including the UK, to find homes for more of the most vulnerable refugees by extending safe and legal routes such as family reunion and resettlement schemes. So far, less than three percent of all Syrian refugees have actually arrived in rich countries through resettlement programmes.
Goldring said: "The international community has an opportunity to build on the commitments to Syria's neighbours made in London last year. Top of the list is extending the legal rights of refugees, increasing humanitarian and development funding for countries like Lebanon and Jordan, and resettling more Syrians in rich countries".
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Notes to editors:
Ministers from more than 50 nations including the UK are expected to meet in Brussels for the Supporting the future of Syria and the region conference on 4-5 April 2017.
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR announced on 30 March 2017 that more than five million Syrians have now sought safety in neighbouring countries. Oxfam and others have argued that resettling at least 10 percent of the refugee population by the end of this year is both necessary and possible. An Oxfam report in December 2016 showed that less than three percent of the Syrian refugee population have actually arrived in rich countries through resettlement programmes.
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