On March 16, 2022, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing, 11 Years of War: The Humanitarian Impact of the Ongoing Conflict in Syria.
Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Ms. Jomana Qaddour, head of the Syria Project and a Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Mr. Hardin Lang, Vice President for Programs and Policy at Refugees International, Ms. Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at CARE, and Mr. Joel Rayburn, a Fellow at the New America Foundation and Former Special Envoy for Syria for the U.S. Department of State.
The hearing covered a wide range of topics related to humanitarian issues in Syria and impacting Syrian refugees. Below are some of the Charity & Security Network’s key takeaways from the hearing.
The international community should increase aid funding for Syria, with an emphasis on long-term funding and support for local NGOs
Overall the witnesses supported increased international funding for aid efforts in Syria. Ms. Qaddor and Mr. Lang both emphasized the need for longer-term funding to support the ability of programs to plan for the future and deliver services in a stable and consistent manner. Ms. Qaddor, Ms. Shawky, and Mr. Lang also advocated for a more localized focus in the dispersal of aid funds.
Diplomatic efforts to support aid delivery and the pursuit of an inclusive democratic process are essential
Mr. Rayburn made the point that effective diplomacy is key to addressing the root causes of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. He argued that the Biden administration should appoint a Special Envoy for Syria to support diplomatic efforts.
Efforts should be made to protect the cross-border aid mechanism, or to develop an alternative should Russia veto its extension
Mr. Lang expressed his concern and belief that Russia is likely to veto an extension of the cross border aid mechanism enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2585, when its mandate expires in July 2022, a move that could have dire consequences for some 3 million people who receive aid via the Bab al-Hawa crossing. He also argued that an alternative approach of handing off aid efforts to NGOs should be pursued, both through working with international NGOs, and through “prioritizing assistance to local NGOs,” and that the UN should be able to facilitate such a handoff during a transition period if the cross-border aid mechanism is not renewed.