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Livelihoods and social cohesion must be priority sectors: A Caritas Briefing - Brussels Syria Conference April 2017

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Catholic aid agencies call for a new deal, as Syrian refugees hit more than five million

A group of Catholic aid agencies are calling on this week's Brussels Conference on Syria to recommit support to Syrians forced to flee, as more than five million Syrians - or a quarter of the country’s pre-war population - have been forced to cross borders and register as refugees in neighbouring countries.

The Catholic aid agencies, including UK aid agency CAFOD, warn that the Brussels Conference meeting, must put front and centre the need to mobilise funds for longer-term development for Syrian refugees.

In a joint report, ‘Livelihoods and social cohesion must be priority sectors’ – the Catholic aid agencies argue the Brussels Conference needs to offer a new deal of investment for Syria’s neighbouring governments that would allow Syrian refugees to better support themselves and their families financially.

Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD’s Programme Manager for Syria, said:

“With no end to the conflict in sight, despite a fragile peace process, and no prospect of safe return home for Syrian refugees; the Brussels Conference must deliver a new deal by providing more investment to neighbouring countries hosting refugees, in support of employment opportunities and to stimulate economic growth, that benefit both refugees and host communities alike.”

The overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees are living in informal settlements established on agricultural land in Lebanon, in cramped flats in Jordan, and in housing with very basic necessities in Turkey. They need jobs, education and healthcare.

The report highlights that livelihoods and social cohesion remain underfunded. With the right help from international donors, Syria’s neighbouring governments should develop policies that allow refugees to better support themselves financially without the risk of arrest by authorities. This would also allow refugees to contribute to the economy of the communities hosting them.

“The Brussels Conference needs to provide some benefits to host communities, and particularly to the smallest enterprises - so that experienced trades people, farmers and teachers, among others, can put their skills to good use”, said Alan Thomlinson.

“In Lebanon, for example, the Lebanese are often the ones already employing Syrians informally. Apart from jobs, there is also a need to lift legal and political barriers that put refugees outside the law and deprived them of educational opportunities as well as basic services such as healthcare.

“This is critical to offering, hope, safety and dignity to millions of refugees.”

In the six years of the Syrian conflict, nearly 400,000 people have been killed, and half of the country's population has been displaced by the violence. Turkey has taken in the most Syrian refugees, nearly 3 million, while Lebanon hosts more than 1 million and Jordan more than 600,000.

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For interviews or further information please contact:

For media enquiries please contact Laura Ouseley, laura.ouseley@cafod.org.uk, +44(0)207 095 5479, +44(0)7909 875 956. CAFOD out-of-hours media hotline: +44 (0)7919 301 429

Notes to Editor:

CAFOD is the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. It works with communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to fight poverty and injustice. The agency works with people in need regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality (cafod.org.uk).

The faith agencies involved in the report ‘Livelihoods and social cohesion must be priority sectors’: CAFOD, SCIAF, Trocaire, Caritas Luxembourg, Caritas Norway, Caritas Europa, Caritas Jordan, Caritas Lebanon – are part of Caritas Internationalis, a Caritas network of more than 160 Catholic aid agencies worldwide, which work together to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

The Brussels Syria Conference is due to take place on 5 April 2017, hosted by the EU, UN, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and Qatar. It will bring together representatives from 70 delegations, major donors and humanitarian and development organisations. The last Syria Conference was held in London in February 2016 where more than $10 billion was pledged. A full copy of the report ‘Livelihoods and social cohesion must be priority sectors’ can be found here.

The faith aid agencies are calling for the following recommendations:

Donors must look beyond short-term funding cycles and commit to flexible multi-year funding to allow for the fluid dynamic of the conflict, and in line with Grand Bargain commitments. Such approaches will assist practical programme development, efficient and needs-based programming and continuity of support to vital services.

Donors and all humanitarian actors must urgently address social cohesion and livelihoods solutions using long-term and strategic approaches. Focusing on these issues will enable Syrian refugees to gain more control and autonomy over their lives and will facilitate the flourishing of civil society and promote integration. Furthermore, they are vital elements of protection, development and integration. Donors, UN agencies, host government and international NGOs must examine how local communities, CSOs and local and national NGOs can be better supported, provided with direct funding and have their vital role recognised within national and regional coordination structures.