Opening speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at Donor conference for Syria in London 4 February 2016.
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Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria is more urgent than ever.
- The longer it takes, the harder it will be to rebuild what has been destroyed.
- The longer it takes, the more challenging it will be for the neighbouring countries, shouldering the burden of hosting large numbers of refugees.
- The longer it takes, the longer the civilian population in Syria will continue to suffer.
Meeting these challenges is what the conference today is all about:
- Ensuring a significant scaling up of the humanitarian response, including intensified efforts to protect the civilian population.
- Partnering with the neighbouring countries in support of refugees and host communities alike.
- Preparing the ground for long-term support to the Syrian population once a political solution has been reached.
We hope that the talks aimed at reaching a political settlement will be productive and we support all efforts to this end.
As the talks continue, we must respond to the grave humanitarian situation inside Syria.
At the same time, we have to plan today for Syria’s future:
- We must help to rebuild hospitals, schools and essential infrastructure;
- We must clear landmines and other explosives to make cities, towns and villages safe;
- And we must invest in people: In protection and education for the Syrian children and youth, not least girls and young women, who will have to rebuild their country once the conflict is over.
During my recent visit to Jordan and Lebanon, I met Syrian refugee families living in camps and informal settlements in Beirut and Amman. A Syrian refugee woman and her daughter living on a roof in Bourj Hammoud in Beirut told me about their difficult living conditions and how they were worried for the future. But I also witnessed schools running double shifts that actually give young Syrian students hope.
Syria’s neighbours have welcomed millions of refugees. What they have already achieved in helping the refugees is impressive.
We are facing challenges, but the bottom line is that Syria’s neighbours deserve increased international support to tackle the refugee crisis. This will benefit us all.
Inside Syria, the Syrian people are not only victims of a long-lasting war. They are victims of the parties' repeated violations of international humanitarian law: the very law that aims to protect innocent civilians.
The parties to the conflict need to hear clear and unified calls from the international community:
- Schools and hospitals must not be attacked.
- Starvation must not be used as a weapon.
- Humanitarian access must not be obstructed.
- Civilians must be protected.
Norway will significantly increase its contribution to Syria and the neighbouring countries in 2016. This year, we will triple last year’s pledge, and make a total contribution of 2.4 billion Norwegian kroner, or approximately 280 million US dollars. In total, Norway is pledging 10 billion Norwegian kroner, or 1.16 billion US dollars, over the next four years.
15 % of this year’s pledge will be allocated to education and child protection.
In addition, Norway will also work to secure increased contributions from the World Bank and other financial institutions.
The gap between the needs in Syria and its neighbouring countries and the resources available to them- is widening. This is a gap we must close, and we must do so now.