World Bulletin / News Desk
An international donors' conference for Syria opened on Wednesday in Kuwait City, with the stated objective of raising $6.5 billion to help over nine million internally displaced Syrians and four million refugees in other countries.
Addressing the opening session, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah announced a $500 million donation in humanitarian aid to Syrians, while the United States announced a contribution of $380 million. Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged $60 million each.
The appeal launched last month is the largest in the history of the United Nations, which estimates that the conflict has rolled back human development gains in Syria by 35 years, with half the population now living in poverty.
"The flames of the humantarian crisis in Syria are still going on ... destroying all signs of life," Sheikh Sabah said, describing the conflict as a catastrophe.
Overall, only 70 percent of all of the crisis funding needed for Syria in 2013 has been received by the United Nations, according to the body's Financial Tracking Service (FTS).
"Even under the best circumstances, the fighting has set back Syria years, even decades," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is chairing the Kuwait conference.
Ban has previously expressed regret that not all the promised donations have been received from the last meeting, with 20-30 percent still lacking.
Ban told the gathering on Wednesday he hoped peace talks due to be held in Switzerland on Jan. 22 would bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table.
"I hope this will launch a political process to establish a transitional governing body with a full executive powers, and most importantly, end the violence," he said.
Last year Kuwait sent more than $300 million to the United Nations for the emergency campaign, making it the biggest Middle Eastern donor. The first conference, also hosted by Kuwait, helped to collect $1.5 billion to provide food rations, medicine, drinking water and shelters for Syrian refugees.
Delegations from 69 countries are attending the Second Kuwait Pledging Conference, including representatives from Arab states, Europe and the United States.
On Tuesday, a group of NGOs pledged a total of $403 million to Syrian refugees during a sideline gathering organized by the International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO).
Syria has been in the throes of conflict since 2011 when a peaceful uprising against Assad escalated into a civil war following a violent government crackdown.
According to the UN, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.Last Mod: 15 Ocak 2014, 13:19