Australia has pledged an additional AU $10 million in humanitarian aid to help those affected by the conflict in Syria.
The pledge was made as part of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference, held yesterday in Kuwait City. Total pledges amounted to US $2.4 billion—well short of the $6.5 billion the UN says it will need this year for the Syrian crisis, one of its largest ever appeals.
In contrast to the huge scale of the need, Australia’s pledge seems very small.
Ahead of the conference, a Fair Share analysis [pdf] by Oxfam showed that Australia was one of the countries that was (just) pulling its weight for contributions in 2012-13. But the analysis found that Australia’s fair contribution for 2014 would US $95.9 million—unless much larger top-ups are made later this year, we will be well and truly lagging behind.
Oxfam Australia CEO Helen Szoke has criticised the pledge, saying it is not in line with Australia’s capacity to contribute, nor the size of the appeal.
The tight budgetary situation for the current year may be one explanation. The Coalition went into the election committed to cutting the current year’s aid budget by $656 million. It has not yet announced where those savings will be found.
Yesterday, host nation Kuwait pledged $500 million in new aid and the US announced a contribution of $380 million. Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged $60 million each, the EU pledged $225 million and Britain $165 million.Even NZ managed to find $5 million.
A full list of the pledges from this year’s conference is available here.
For a unique insight into the humanitarian nightmare engulfing the people of Syria and its neighbours, listen to the podcast of a Devpolicy November 2013 presentation by UNICEF Lebanon Deputy Representative Luciano Calestini.