Obama, the EU and Syrian Refugees: Money and Interests

The United Nations has released figures showing that 7.6 million people became refugees in 2012 – the highest since 1994 (here).  Events in Syria are being cited as a major new contributor to the number.  Indeed, 55% of refugees now come from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria.

The release of the report comes just a day after the US has pledged to give more than $300 million in additional humanitarian assistance to those caught up in the countries civil war.  This takes the US total to around $815 million since the war began.  This makes the US the single largest contributor of humanitarian aid.  Indeed, this is more than double the European Commission’s €265 million ($354 million).  This just highlights the massive international action that is taking place as Syrian’s are displaced internally, but also fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.  The aid is clearly needed for medical emergency relief, protection, food, water, sanitation, shelter, winterization and psychosocial support, but also for hygiene kits,legal assistance, and emergency medical rehabilitation for the disabled and injured.  Absolutely tragic – and worth watching this to see what help the aid can do (here).

What’s troubling about this picture however, is that there is increasing sectarian violence spreading throughout the region.  This is especially the case in what are becoming the refugees first point of call – Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.  This could well have a knock on effect leading to an increased number of refugees into the EU.  As such, this isn’t just a humanitarian crisis for those in Syria, there are significant interests at stake for the EU …

Locator

Locator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EU waste €1billion in Egypt? Sort of …

An article in the FT today, details how the EU spending watchdog has declared that EU aid to Egypt has done little to achieve its stated aims of improving democracy and human rights.

The assessment appears to be pretty damning, claiming that Brussels was unable to track about 60% of the aid money transferred to the Egyptian govt, raising concern about fraud and mismanagement.

However, what’s interesting about the report, and the fall out, is that it fails to take into account political context whilst also failing to recognise the ambiguous nature of democracy promotion. The EU can do a lot better, but maybe the report misses the point and is being overly stringent on how it wants demonstrable effects … Nevertheless it is safe to say that this money would have been better spent through direct and visible partnerships with civil society in the region rather than through the ENP partnership with the Egyptian government.