Speech/statement | Date: 05/04/2017
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende (Brussels, 5 April)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende's main address at the Syria conference opening session, in Brussels 5 April 2017.
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Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
About one year ago, many of us met in London for the same reason we are here today:
To show our strong commitment to the Syrian people and their neighbours.
The Syrian crises is entering its seventh year – so let me pay special tribute to the many hard-pressed Syrian women, men and children.
Not least those who have found the courage to help others in the midst of this brutal conflict.
The human suffering and loss of lives is unbearable.
Atrocities continue as we speak. We are horrified by the reported chemical attack in Idlib yesterday. Those responsible must be held accountable.
The repeated violations of humanitarian law are unacceptable.
One year after the London conference, we have to ask ourselves what more can be done to meet the needs of the millions of people still suffering from the crisis.
Both those inside the country, and those who have fled.
Last year, a historic 12 billion dollars was pledged in London.
So far, donors have honoured – and even delivered beyond – their pledges.
Now, we need to ensure that we maintain this level of commitment.
Because it will take many years before life can return to normal in Syria. What can be destroyed in six years, can take many years to rebuild.
In the meantime, the Syrian people need to be able to envision a future for themselves and their families.
And Syria's neighbouring countries will continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden.
This means that donors and aid organisations must shift towards more predictable, multi-year financing and planning.
Humanitarian and development actors must work together to reduce vulnerability and build resilience.
We have to live up to our Grand Bargain commitments.
In line with this thinking, Norway made a four-year pledge in London of 10 billion Norwegian kroner. We ha ve never pledged this much money before.
By the end of 2017, we will already have disbursed half of this amount.
Norway's support to the Syrian people takes a long-term perspective.
That is why we are giving high priority to education. Education is the key to Syria's future. Last year, Norway allocated 20 per cent of its funding to education.
And we are making progress.
Unicef estimates that 350 000 more girls and boys attended school in Syria last year than the year before.
Also, in Syria's five neighbouring countries, the number of out-of-school refugee children fell by 15 % from 2015 to 2016.
But the needs remain enormous. We simply cannot afford to lose a whole generation of young Syrians.
Lack of access to hard-to-reach and besieged areas represents a huge obstacle for humanitarian efforts in Syria.
Let us be clear: It is the parties to the conflict that bear full responsibility for protecting civilians and ensuring humanitarian access.
Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are unacceptable.
The blatant disregard for humanitarian law is outrageous.
And the use of siege and starvation as weapons of war is simply shocking.
Crimes against humanity and war crimes must not go unpunished.
For this reason, Norway fully supports the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for investigating international crimes committed in Syria.
The Syrian conflict has already lasted for six long years.
This highlights that humanitarian action can never be a substitute for political solutions.
Lasting peace is crucial for bringing an end to the suffering, and for rebuilding the country and ensuring stability in the region.
We strongly urge the parties to end this horrific conflict.
Let me conclude by thanking our many humanitarian and development partners working on the ground in Syria.
Your relentless efforts and endurance bring hope to the millions of people who are suffering both inside Syria and in its neighbouring countries.