Syrian Aid Forum for Emergency and Reconstruction (SAFER 2016)


The speed with which Syria disintegrated into extreme violence and armed conflict shocked the world and left the humanitarian aid regime in turmoil as agencies, governments and host communities struggled to respond to the growing displacement crisis inside Syria and on its borders. This crisis entered its sixth year with approximately 13.5 million Syrians affected, including six million children. At least 8.7 million people are unable to meet their daily food needs, while more than 70% of the population doesn’t have access to safe water. Five million are refugees in neighboring countries, mainly in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Due to the Syrian war, densely populated Lebanon has earned the burdensome reputation of being the country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita. More recently, 0.5 million Syrians arrived in Europe  entailing the most serious refugee crisis in Europe for decades and challenging the crucial Schengen Agreement of unconditional mobility among EU member states.

Slow to build up at the beginning, the international response to the crisis is now starting to get close to its due dimension. On 4 February 2016, an international conference in London co-sponsored by the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations managed to raise over US$ 11 billion in pledges – US$ 5.9 billion for 2016 per se and a further US$5.4 billion for 2017-20 to enable partners to plan ahead. This was against an initial appeal of US$ 9 billion for 2016. The London Conference announced later that on the longer term a package of US$ 40.8 billion of loans will be available for the Syria crisis response including US$ 1.6 billion on concessional terms. In term of pledges, this was an ample progress compared to previous years. In 2015, only US$ 3.9 billion were secured against an appeal of US$ 7.4 billion.Hopefully a higher rate of commitment by pledging donors will be achieved from now on.

The increase of interest and commitment from the international community in response to the Syrian crisis will be vocal again twice this year, first in the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016, followed by the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next September.

Still there is much needed to meet this enormous challenge, especially at the operational and field levels, and in the areas of coordination, networking and division of tasks. It is important to avoid duplication of work among the various stakeholders such as UN agencies, donor countries, host countries, local governments, host communities, civil societies, local NGOs and INGOs, and the refugees themselves. Other important players, like the private sector, entrepreneurs and innovators, should be involved more efficiently, in order to benefit from Public Private Partnership (PPP) funding opportunities and the private sector’s know-how, as well as from the comparative advantages of innovators in providing creative and digital solutions to the refugee management issues.

It is very important as well to include the thoughts and opinions of the refugees themselves and the host communities to highlight their needs, challenges and aspirations, and include them in selecting best solutions to their problems. Moreover, it is necessary to improve the coordination between the host countries that face similar situations, like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, especially in exchanging experiences, discussing solutions and exploring the relevance of setting up joint ventures in this field.

With the political process moving forward towards a peaceful solution for the crisis in Syria, from Vienna Conference to UNSC resolution 2254 and the recent Geneva talks, it has become relevant that the response to the crisis tackles not only the humanitarian and relief aspect, but also the root causes of the conflict and lasting solutions. This can be done by exploring the prospects of Syria’s reconstruction process, its needs, challenges and opportunities --for the Syrians as well as for the host countries’ manpower and business community-- along with allowing a conclusive debate on the different points of view and positions regarding the repatriation of the refugees to their homes and towns or to “safe zones” inside Syria. The political, security and legal challenges associated with the repatriation need also to be addressed. This would contribute to alleviating the growing fear amongst host countries of having the refugees become a permanent burden, especially countries that have a delicate confessional balance like Lebanon.

This forum will take stock of all previous efforts in this regard, assess the current situation and explore the future scope of action from a domestic, regional, and international perspective, with emphasis on enhancing inclusiveness and participation, and creating synergy between all stakeholders.



  1. Seek a better understanding of the situation, its dynamics and updates, and the lessons learned from a 5-year protracted crisis.
  2. Listen to the priorities and concerns of host governments and communities, as well as the refugees themselves, and involve all of them in the response process.
  3. Cope efficiently with the needs and challenges of providing immediate humanitarian assistance and the mid-term support and social inclusion wanted.
  4. Engage actors in discussions on the prospects and scenarios of Syria reconstruction and the repatriation of the Syrian refugees.
  5. Increase synergy and efficiency through adopting creative solutions, engaging/mainstreaming all actors/stakeholders, and enhancing regional cooperation and exchange of knowledge and know-how.