The United States supports the Syrian people’s aspirations for a Syrian-led transition to a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful Syria. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the nearly two years since unrest and violence began. In the last month alone, the number of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries has risen sharply. More than 870,000 Syrians have registered as refugees since the crisis began, or are awaiting registration in neighboring countries while, inside Syria, an additional 2.5 million people remain internally displaced and 4 million people are in need of assistance. The Syrian regime has sacrificed all legitimacy in a vicious effort to cling to power. U.S. assistance includes vigorous diplomatic support of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, nearly $385 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict, and over $50 million in non-lethal support for local opposition councils and civil society inside Syria.
The United States continues to support the Syrian people as the Syrian Opposition Coalition sets a course toward the peaceful, democratic, inclusive future that the people of Syria deserve. We are working with other nations to further isolate the regime and support the Syrian people’s calls for President Assad to step down. We and our international partners actively supported the efforts of the Syrian people to launch the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Doha in November 2012 and, on December 11, 2012, President Obama recognized the Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The Coalition – which includes opponents of the Assad regime from across the political and ethno-sectarian spectrum – has made real progress since its founding, and is stepping up its outreach to women, minorities, religious leaders and civil society. The Coalition has also begun to develop formal structures and plans for a democratic political transition that protects the rights, the dignity, and the aspirations of all Syrians. In Paris on January 28, more than 50 countries supporting the Syrian opposition gathered to reaffirm their commitment to provide support to the Syrian Opposition Coalition and agreed on the urgent need to increase and improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including for areas outside of regime control. On February 2, Vice President Biden met with Syrian Opposition Coalition President al-Khatib in Munich. The Vice President praised al-Khatib’s personal courage and leadership of the Coalition and urged al-Khatib to continue his efforts to maintain unity among the SOC leadership, to isolate extremist elements within the broader opposition, and to reach out to – and be inclusive of – a broad range of communities inside Syria.
The United States, along with the international community, is tirelessly working to provide humanitarian aid to the innocent civilians affected by the brutal conflict in Syria. At the Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva February 19, the U.S. announced an additional $19 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria. These new funds augment the contribution of an additional $155 million announced by President Obama on January 29.
With this new assistance, U.S. humanitarian assistance totals nearly $385 million to help millions of people inside Syria and over 870,000 people who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries. Over $215 million of this total goes to address critical needs inside Syria. Our assistance is providing emergency medical care and medical supplies, food aid, and winterization supplies like blankets and heaters for those affected by the crisis, both inside Syria and those seeking refuge in the region and elsewhere. It also supports the psycho-social rehabilitation of Syrian refugees who are victims of torture and war.
U.S. humanitarian aid is being provided throughout all 14 governorates of Syria on the basis of need. It is not branded in order to ensure the safety of aid recipients and humanitarian aid providers as well as to ensure that aid distribution is not thwarted en route. The United States is committed to using all channels to reach affected Syrians throughout the country and is working through UN, NGO, and community-based partners, as well as with the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit. The United States is also working closely with host governments in the region who have generously opened their borders. For more details on the United States humanitarian response to the Syria crisis and what U.S. humanitarian assistance has provided, please visit www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.
Transition Support to the Unarmed Opposition
The United States is also providing just over $54 million in non-lethal support to the unarmed Syrian opposition, including emergent local and national democratic institutions, and nonsectarian civic groups. This assistance includes training and equipment to build the capacity of a nation-wide network of ethnically and religiously diverse civilian activists to link Syrian citizens with nascent governance structures. This support enhances the information security of Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and media outlets and empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning and peace negotiations. Activities sponsored by these funds enable local councils and grassroots organizations to respond to the needs of their communities and promotes constructive participation in the country’s political transition.
Over 4,000 major pieces of equipment have been provided, mostly to Damascus, Aleppo, and other areas with significant opposition presence, including communications and computer equipment, as well as generators and medical supplies, to support unarmed Syrian opposition groups strengthen civil society, media, and democratic transition planning.
Support to civil society groups and local councils includes efforts to train, equip, and build the capacity of nearly 1,500 grassroots activists, including women and youth, from over 100 opposition councils and organizations in 10 different regions of Syria; develop groups’ abilities to mobilize citizens, share information, provide community services, and undertake civic functions; support interreligious and communal dialogues and encourage citizen participation in shaping the Syrian transition; and support human rights documentation and transitional justice workshops while laying the foundation for future accountability efforts.
Support to independent media projects includes assistance to community radio stations providing information for refugees about available services; training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists to support their documentation, packaging, and dissemination of information on developments in Syria; and technical assistance and equipment to enhance the information and communications security of Syrian activists within Syria.
Assistance in support of democratic transition planning includes efforts to link unarmed opposition elements inside Syria with global supporters; support for the independent Syria Justice and Accountability Center to document human rights abuses and coordinate transitional justice and accountability efforts; technical assistance to emerging political parties; and facilitating non-sectarian Syrian activists’ participation in political and economic transition planning to promote the business community’s engagement in transition processes.
Public Donation Information
A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for response efforts in Syria can be found at www.interaction.org.