International response to Syria failing on ‘every front’

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The international response to Syria is failing on three fronts – insufficient aid, meagre resettlement offers and continued arms transfers – Oxfam warns in a report published today.

Oxfam is calling on the UN to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Syria and is urging governments of rich countries to provide their fair share of aid, and offer a haven to greater numbers of refugees fleeing violence.

The report, A Fairer Deal for Syrians, details how the $7.7 billion humanitarian appeals are less than half funded, while a continued supply of arms is fuelling widespread violations and undermining peace efforts. Rich countries are offering a safe haven to a paltry number of refugees from Syria while neighbouring countries are struggling to support more than 3 million people who have fled the conflict.

“Canada has so far been generous in providing aid to people within Syria and those displaced to neighbouring countries,” said Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada. “However, as the number of refugees continues to grow and conflict spreads to other countries in region, our Government must urgently step-up diplomatic efforts to bring an end to this terrible humanitarian crisis.”

Russia, a major arms exporter to Syria, has committed only one percent of its fair share of aid. France and the USA have provided just 33 percent and 60 percent of their fair share respectively and are continuing to supply arms, undermining efforts to stop the conflict. Many Gulf countries are giving more than their fair share but need to do more to stop arms flowing. Other generous donors include the UK and Denmark.

Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, said: “This is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and the international community’s response is falling far short on every front. In Syria, a steady flow of Kalashnikovs, bombs and missiles is fuelling terrible violations, while aid only trickles through to those who so desperately need it.

“Neighbouring countries are hosting millions of refugees, many in desperate need of shelter, healthcare, food and water.

“Yet there has been no embargo on arms and ammunition and few states have stepped up to offer protection to even a small number of refugees. The international community needs to wake up to its responsibilities towards the victims of this conflict.”

Oxfam is calling for five percent of the projected refugee population to be resettled or offered humanitarian admission to rich countries by the end of 2015. Each rich country should take their fair share of the total based on the size of their economy.

Speaking to the situation in Canada, Fox added: “We call on the Canadian government to accelerate the resettlement of Syrian refugees to Canada. Clearly we can’t take three million, but we can do more than we have currently pledged – and we could do it a lot faster.”

Germany and Australia are the only wealthy countries to have offered to relocate their fair share of refugees so far; almost all the other rich countries are falling short.

Three and a half years on, the generosity of neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan is at breaking point, and refugees and poor communities are paying the price.

Baker said: “The international community’s inadequate approach to the Syrian conflict is failing the millions of people who have fled torture, massacres and barrel bombs and those facing a terrifying future inside Syria. They have been abandoned by the international community and are living in desperate conditions in a daily battle to survive.”

The report also encourages authorities in the region to ensure that those fleeing violence can reach safety and, given the long term nature of the crisis, find opportunities to work and support their families.

Notes to editors

  1. For interviews with Oxfam staff in Beirut or Amman (in English, Arabic, and French) contact Joelle Bassoul at
  2. Photos and testimonies are also available.
  3. Download the full report here
  4. Oxfam has developed three key indicators to help guide the level of commitment that each wealthy country should make in order to fairly alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Syria crisis:
  • The level of funding each country makes available for the humanitarian response, relative to the size of their economy (based on gross national income);
  • The number of Syrian refugees each country has helped to find safety through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the economy. This does not include numbers granted asylum in either neighbouring countries or elsewhere, as states have specific obligations related to individuals who arrive on their territory seeking asylum.
  • Each country’s commitment to taking practical action to end violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by halting transfers of arms and ammunition. Halting arms transfers would also be one way, in addition to reconvening talks aimed at ending the crisis, which collapsed in Geneva this year, that members of the international can revive the stalled peace process.
  1. Countries beyond Syria’s neighbours have to date committed to offer safe haven to 37,629 of the estimated 3 million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR through resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes.
  2. The UN has launched its largest ever humanitarian appeal for Syria. Other agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have their own appeals, as do the governments of Jordan and Lebanon. An aggregate of all of these appeals puts the total need at $7.7bn – according to Oxfam’s research, these have been 43.6 percent funded by donors.

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For more information:

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations Officer
Oxfam Canada



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