Ed note. Click below item to read my piece in full on the website of the Globe and Mail.
Leaders are gathering in Kuwait on Wednesday for a day-long conference to raise money for the humanitarian side of the international response to the Syrian crisis. With no prospect for a Libya-style intervention and little expectation for a peace agreement on the ground, the UN hopes to raise $1.5-billion (U.S.) to meet the basic needs of people affected by conflict inside Syria and across the region over the next six months.
Whether or not the international community meets that goal is a good measure of countries’ commitment to the welfare of the Syrian people.
Syria today is the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet – and it is getting worse by the day. At least 60,000 people have been killed; 700,000 people have fled the country; and a further two million people are displaced internally. Thirty-thousand people have arrived in a single refugee camp in Jordan since the New Year alone. In all, the UN estimates that four million people across the region require some form of humanitarian assistance.
As is typically the case, women and children are suffering the most. Their needs are growing proportionally to the intensity of the fighting by the men on the frontlines. “This is primarily a children’s crisis,” Panos Moumtzis, the UN Refugee Agency’s regional co-ordinator for the Syria crisis told a panel at the U.S. Capitol in Washington earlier this month. “It is overwhelmingly children and families that are fleeing.”
With the immense scale of suffering involved, there is a deep moral urgency to do something about this crisis, but there is no clear sense that an international military intervention would do more good than harm. Providing for the basic necessities of Syrians caught in the conflict is a way to demonstrate solidarity with the Syrian people, while avoiding the trap of intervention.
So far, though, the international community’s response has not been commensurate to the requirements…