Speech/statement | Date: 03/02/2016
Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech at a NGO event at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London 3 February 2016.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
Civil Society Organisations - national and international– are playing a fundamental role in delivering vital assistance to those affected by the conflict in Syria.
You, together with your partners, are operating on the ground under the most challenging circumstances.
Often, you are the first line of emergency assistance.
You are the first ones to reach out to the people who are most badly affected.
Sometimes, you are the only eyewitnesses to the cruelty of the conflict.
The only ones who can alert the world to the gravity of the humanitarian situation. Who can urge the international community to step up its response.
And you do this at great risk to yourselves, your personnel and your partners.
It is tragic that a significant number of humanitarian aid workers have been killed while providing help to people affected by the Syrian conflict.
The blatant disregard for international humanitarian law is extremely worrying.
It is outrageous that the parties to the conflict deliberately delay and obstruct the delivery of aid.
The use of siege and starvation as a weapon of war is totally unacceptable.
But let me be very clear: without the humanitarian community, the situation would have been even worse.
It is in great part thanks to your relentless efforts and endurance that this brutal conflict has not caused even more suffering.
As world leaders come together for tomorrow’s conference, we all share a common goal:
- We must raise substantial financial contributions to meet the growing humanitarian needs
- And we need to strengthen the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law.
We need to urgently scale up our capacity to alleviate the acute humanitarian needs inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries.
And, at the same time, we need to become better at providing longer-term solutions for all those who are unable to return to their homes and resume normal lives.
We must redouble our efforts to create jobs and livelihood opportunities for refugees and people in their host communities.
And we must provide education opportunities for all children and young people in the region.
I commend the NGOs working inside Syria for their innovative coordination practices and their cooperation with the UN.
Within the framework of the ‘Whole of Syria’ approach, many of you are able to reach areas that are difficult for UN agencies to access.
And you offer services that the UN cannot provide.
For Norway, cooperation with civil society will continue to be a central aspect of our humanitarian assistance in Syria and the neighbouring countries.
However, humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action.
A lasting solution to the Syria conflict can only be found through political dialogue.
And for a politically negotiated solution to be effective, it must be rooted in Syria, among Syrians.
Here too, civil society organisations have a fundamental role to play.
If we are to ensure lasting peace, we must find ways of channelling the views of civil society, and in particular women’s perspectives, into the political process.
The challenges we are facing in Syria and the region are daunting.
We must ensure that the magnitude of the challenge does not paralyse us; we must mobilise our best and most strategic resources.