Sima Bahous: Message on the eve of the Top Donors Meeting in Kuwait

18 Jun 2014

"Now is the time for action to support resilience" -  says a report released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) about the impact of the Syria crisis in the sub-region. It is against the backdrop of the international community’s inability to resolve, let alone finance the response to the crisis in Syria, that the Top Donors Group for Syria will meet in Kuwait City tomorrow, Wednesday, 18 June.

At the end of 2013, the Regional United Nations Development Group (UNDG) -a platform that gathers key UN development agencies- endorsed a ‘resilience-based development approach’. I am now pleased to launch a joint UNDP-ODI report, Towards a resilience-based response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The report suggests the process of prioritizing of responses should be based on an understanding of drivers of vulnerability, of capacities that can be supported and of the probable impacts of different responses. I am in full agreement with authors who suggest that the time for reflection is never over but now is the time for action to support resilience.

There is continued recognition amongst concerned governments and the international community that the Syrian crisis has not only compromised development gains but the overall stability of countries in the sub-region. Social tensions between refugees and host communities continue to increase as a result of competition for jobs, land, housing and water. The demographic shock, coupled with insecurity in the sub region also has a severe fiscal and economic impact on concerned countries. Ongoing responses risk not being sustainable in the context of a protracted crisis. Thus, more integrated and resilience based- interventions are required, guided by short and medium term interventions that can address humanitarian needs while supporting national systems and capacities.

Both regional and national response plans are meeting severe challenges. The regional appeals for Syria and for the refugee response remain severely underfunded. Funding of the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP6) annual appeal of 4.2billion USD does not exceed 27% and the funding of the SHARP does not exceed 25%. At the same time, the national resilience plans are facing operationalization issues including deficits in costing. In this context, the magnitude and longevity of the situation is not only defying conventional conflict resolution and development approaches, but it is also challenging standard aid responses and coordination mechanisms.

When deliberating in Kuwait City, I again urge the Top Donors and all partners to be generous in their support. I can confidently re-confirm that the R-UNDG will continue to find ways to optimize existing resources and capacities as well as make the response more sustainable in the long run.  The critical challenge is how to shift from the existing setup –markedly humanitarian- to a new one that puts resilience as the main outcome. 

In conclusion, the Top Donors meeting is again the time for action to support resilience through development assistance. The sense of urgency cannot be overstated, as new challenges emerge requiring a paradigm shift and comprehensive response from the international community and all partners in the region. I am particularly grateful to colleagues inside Syria, neighbouring countries, the UNDP Sub-Regional Facility and R-UNDG partners for their latest analysis.  

Leadership
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Sima Sami Bahous is Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States.

Director's Corner
Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Link to the report