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Fixing the world’s humanitarian crises

“The world is suffering its worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Armed conflicts, extended natural disasters, human exploitation, and waves of refugees.”

That is why the United Nations have called a World Humanitarian Summit for the first time. The stakes are high.

Commissioner Christos Stylianides

Efi Koutsokosta: “So what is at stake in this Summit? There are a lot of open fronts…”

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides: “The process itself towards this Summit is important because all the stakeholders participate. States, humanitarian organisations, all the parties that work on humanitarian aid. A very good preparation has been done and we will have to reach a strong outcome with a strong message so that the humanitarian community is able to take this and go ahead to address the huge challenges which are unfortunately the worst, in terms of needs, since the Second World War.”

“So, what you are saying is that it’s a symbolic summit? And I am saying that because although this started as good news, recently Medecins sans Frontiers, an organisation that offers help from all over the world, announced that they won’t participate and described the summit as a “fig leaf of good intentions” adding they have no hope.”

“We might have had more expectations for sure. And I am telling you that as the European Union, and me as a Commissioner personally, I would like a concrete political declaration, I would like a politically binding statement. But I think that there is still space for us to get important political commitments concerning very important issues. For example, I strongly believe that we can have commitments concerning international humanitarian law, especially with the protection of the humanitarian workers on the ground and this is linked to Medecins sans Frontiers. We know that they’ve been terribly targeted, their hospitals, nursing facilities, doctors and staff have been hit. And secondly is the big issue of humanitarian aid funding.”

“Focusing on Europe and the refugee crisis, is it a humanitarian plan for you to give billions of euros to other countries, which of course you praise for their attitude, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan who host millions of refugees and what you do is to give money especially to Turkey in order to keep them away from you?”

“The financial aid and cooperation with Turkey is very important. Turkey remains the biggest player in this refugee crisis’s management but it is not a matter of exchange. The fact is that it’s necessary to help a country which has this huge need in order to be able to manage the crisis. The same concerns Lebanon and Jordan. I have visited Lebanon and Jordan many times and I think we owe them, not only Europe, but the international community and that’s why I always insist on that because this is not a regional crisis, it’s not a European crisis, it’s a global crisis and that’s why we need to give a global answer.”

“Recently, Human Rights Watch said that Turkish patrols shot refugees at the border between Syria and Turkey, including children and women.”

“All these denouncements are taken into account and we discuss them with each state being criticised. But as far as we are concerned , I want to make it clear that humanitarian aid is not given to the government but to the humanitarian organisations. And to avoid misunderstandings, I mean UN agencies, International organisations, big NGOs which must meet specific criteria to be able to get the money.”

“Let’s speak about another crisis which is not as well- known to the public as Syria, and I mean Yemen. The UN special envoy for humanitarian aid said that 14 million people lack access to sufficient food and among them 7 million people face security issues. Have you been there? Do you have access?”

“You are absolutely right. The Yemen crisis is one of the most severe crises in the world and unfortunately it’s out of the international media attention. We found huge difficulties, we were intimidated yet spoke with the warring sides and we passed on important humanitarian aid but unfortunately there are no humanitarian organisations to take this aid. Because the situation is so dramatic that it’s impossible for any organisation to work there. There was, however, a positive sign lately with the truce. We hope that it will remain, the access is getting better, we go on helping and I hope this truce becomes permanent so that we can address the humanitarian crisis. But I make an appeal to the international media, don’t allow Yemen to become a forgotten crisis. I had an experience of this.”

“This is my last question. You’ve been in many crisis zones. Is there any experience you had that touched you emotionally or made you willing to do more for a specific region or field?”

“You are right. Because many people are telling me that I am “obsessed” with education and emergencies. It was indeed, outside Al Zatari refugee camp in Jordan, where I met a Syrian family under very tough conditions. It was one mother with 6 kids from 1 to 13 years old, very tough conditions. At the end, and before leaving the mother came to me with the translator and told me: ‘Thanks for everything but you see, we have a place to live and food thanks to you but I want my children to have dignity. And in order to have a future, they have to get education’. And she was completely right. It’s unthinkable to see, especially in these times, all this aid not having education as a base. Education is the best defense against extremist views that we want to keep away from all the kids of the world. And it’s a pity that such large populations of kids don’t go to school. So, we insist on the whole package of humanitarian aid but I think we have to focus on education.”

“I think that’s the best message to conclude with. Commissioner thanks a lot for your time.”

Thank you.

Read the article on Euronews website

Christos Stylianides is currently the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. He started out as a dental surgeon before joining politics. Member of the President´s delegation to EU accession talks and intercommunal negotiations for Cypru’s reunification in 1998. He supported the controversial United Nations-brokered blueprint for Cyprus known as the Annan plan which called for an end to the island’s division and was rejected in a referendum by Greek Cypriot citizens. Although he is regarded as liberal, his political career has always been with the centre-right party on the grounds of its approach to reuniting Cyprus. 


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