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Norwegian Statement on Standing Committee's overview on the Middle East and North Africa

Last updated: 07.03.2014 // By Counselor Cathrine Andersen, UNHCR 59th Standing Committee 4-6 march 2014.

Thank you chair, we would like to thank the director for the overview of the multitude and complexity of challenges in the region. We would like to focus on Syrian crisis.

With an ever growing number of IDPs inside Syria and refugees in the neighbouring countries the Syrian crisis may soon become the biggest displacement crisis since the Second World War. This has put an enormous strain on the region and the international humanitarian community, including UNHCR. Norway would like to take this occasion to thank UNHCR and its staff for its response and by the same token thank the neighbouring countries for hosting an unprecedented number of refugees from Syria. We appreciate the role of the HC and the bureau in following up on the HLS from last year’s ExCom. We encourage the continued increased cooperation with the development actors and the aligning of efforts to support both refugees and host communities. We cannot afford to not use every resource, financial and human, sensibly and strategically to respond to the immediate and long term needs.

Despite increased deliveries of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, by UNHCR as well as by other humanitarian actors, Norway is deeply concerned about the continued lack of access for humanitarian actors to many areas in Syria and the restrictions enforced on humanitarian agencies by the Syrian Government and parts of the fragmented opposition. Full and timely access to all people in need, for both assistance and protection, is what is required. Nothing less. Respecting international humanitarian law and human rights must not be seen as a concession. There are rules in war that all parties in conflict are obliged to follow, and all state parties should contribute to these obligations being met, to ensure principled humanitarian action on the ground and not allow the politicisation of humanitarian aid.

Norway regards it as first priority – to the extent possible - to reach out to the many civilians suffering inside Syria. The more one succeeds in providing assistance and protection inside Syria, the less people are forced to flee. This being said, it is of utmost importance that the countries (in the region) keep their borders open. This applies to all categories of people, including those who were displaced inside Syria prior to the conflict.

As a gesture of burden sharing Norway is part of the core group on resettlement chaired by Sweden, and will resettle 1000 refugees from Syria this year from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Norway will also maintain a high level of financial assistance to humanitarian actors inside and close to Syria. We are in the process of allocating the funds we pledged in Kuwait, our guiding principle will be to allocate approx. 50 % in neighbouring countries and 50 % inside Syria.

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