Ever since the August 21 chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,000 people outside of Damascus, the news on Syria has focused almost solely on whether the U.S. will launch a punitive strike. All of a sudden, a conflict the world seemed determined to ignore became a pressing issue and how to solve it became the question of the day.
The majority of the debate has focused on the pros and cons of a military strike or on the feasibility of the joint U.S.-Russian plan to secure Syria’s chemical weapons. Yet lost in this frenzy of coverage has been one guaranteed and simple way to improve the situation: Donate more humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbors.
(Map from www.climate-zone.com.)
One of the key concerns of President Obama and other world leaders is the impact the Syrian conflict is having on the region as a whole. Refugees are spilling into Syria’s neighbors while fighters are coming from all corners of the Middle East to either fight for or against Assad. This exchange of people, refugees and fighters, is weighing heavily on the region. Many of Syria’s neighbors are struggling under this burden and need help. And while many states have pledged money to help alleviate the strain, it’s not enough.
Therefore, what better way to help maintain stability in the region than by donating more money and resources? While this won’t resolve the crisis in Syria, it will help palliate its impact on a region whose stability is vital to the world economy. And, unlike other potential courses of action, contributing more aid is non-controversial and carries zero risk.
Unfortunately, many of the world’s wealthiest states have failed to live up to their obligations when it comes to donating. This can be seen in Oxfam’s recent fair share analysis on humanitarian assistance pledges to the Syrian crisis. The most striking part of this report is that many of the most generous states have been the most restrained in their commentary, while many of the least generous states have been the most vocal in trying to influence the conflict. The table at the end of the article breaks down contributions by state and their “fair share” proportion.
In sum, part of any solution to the crisis in Syria must be more resources to help neighboring states cope with the burden they are baring. Obama's announcement yesterday about an additional $340 million in aid is a great start. But more can and needs to be done. Not only will further aid help prevent the spread of violence, but it is one of the best ways to invest in the future of Syria itself. Any future government in Syria will need stable and prosperous neighbors. Solving the crisis in Syria is no great achievement if the rest of the region is in turmoil because the conflict has been exported to nearby states. As such, the world must focus on containing the hostilities to Syria so that it and the region may some day secure a better future.
In other words, the world must open its wallet, not its mouth. What Syria’s neighbors need is money and resources, not words of encouragement.
(All dollar amounts are in millions.)
% Fair Share Contributed