Get funds to the humanitarian front-line, CAFOD tells the EU
CAFOD has told Kristalina Georgieva – EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid – that local aid agencies responding to the crisis in Syria mustn’t be the partners of ‘last resort’ in the international humanitarian response to the conflict.
Speaking at a parliamentary event - ‘Between Humanity and Catastrophe: The Future of Humanitarianism’ - on 20 June, Matthew Carter, Director of CAFOD’s Humanitarian Department, told EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva, that local Syrian organisations have been the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of Syrians affected by the conflict.
He said: “In Lebanon today we can see strong national civil society organisations, including CAFOD’s own partner Caritas Lebanon, that have been at the forefront of responding to the influx of refugees from Syria since the start of the conflict. But despite their strength, experience and excellent capacity, they are marginalised by the international response. When it comes to funding, they are seen as ‘a partner of last resort’.”
Matthew Carter was speaking in the Houses of Parliament on how the humanitarian landscape has changed over the last ten years. He said that the UK government’s commitment to more than double its current humanitarian aid to Syria to £348 million has come at a time when local Syrian aid organisations and those responding in the wider region are struggling to provide the humanitarian aid that is so urgently needed.
EU Commissioner Georgieva commented on Syria saying that: "A lack of courage and determination to find a pathway to a political solution has lead to handing the crisis over to the humanitarian community to do the best they can."
Humanitarian space must be protected
But Matthew Carter warned that - in Syria and beyond - there is a worrying lack of access for humanitarian workers to deliver aid.
“Both rapid onset emergencies like the recent floods in Mozambique, the food and political crisis in Mali and the wider Sahel region, and conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Eastern Congo and Myanmar all continue to blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
“As a humanitarian community, we are beginning to once again feel powerless in the face of the odds against us in responding to those in real need, in saving lives and reducing suffering.”
EU Commissioner Georgieva said that despite the many complex reasons for this, it was paramount that humanitarian workers held onto their core principles for operating in the field. She said:
"It is critically important for humanitarian aid workers to defend their principles of: neutrality, impartiality and independence. If we politicise aid, people pay with their lives, humanitarian workers pay with their lives and those we seek to help then don't get the help they so desperately need."
The people we serve must be at the heart of all we do
Matthew Carter told the meeting that the humanitarian sector must work better to improve the lives of disaster affected communities through the quality and accountability of their humanitarian assistance.
“We must be the standards bearer, but this cannot be simply about systems and procedures, handbooks and checklists. It is also about the shifting of power, listening to the people we serve – women, men, and children, the elderly and vulnerable – and working for greater equity.”
Commissioner Georgieva agreed wholeheartedly, adding:
“We bear a huge responsibility to amplify the voices of the people we serve. We must never forget that we work for them. They do not have access to the corridors of power.
"When we take their voices up we have to translate their words into a more determined global commitment to conflict prevention, conflict resolution and the fight against climate change."
In his closing remarks, Matthew Carter said: “I believe that the years ahead will see a dramatic and exciting change in the humanitarian environment and landscape. It will be about finding new ways and means to provide assistance in complex crises.
“This will mean working through global partnerships with a stronger focus on southern organisations. We have to challenge ourselves to bring about this change and not keep the current status quo.”