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Charity wants Swiss to pay ‘fair share’ in Syrian crisis

Syrian refugee camp
Oxfam wants Switzerland to contribute more aid to Syrians and take in more refugees. Keystone

Switzerland should be making a larger contribution to help the humanitarian aid effort in Syria, according to the British-based charity, Oxfam. The group says Switzerland is falling well short of what it can give based on its economic status.

According to the Oxfam briefing paperExternal link, only 40% of the total $7.7 billion (CHF7.2 billion) in humanitarian aid needed for the Syrian crisis has been funded so far this year and rich countries are not pulling their weight.

The charity argues that Switzerland is meeting only 47% of its funding responsibility based on its Gross National Income (GNI). Its contribution to the Syrian crisis should be $50.2 million instead of the $23.7 million it pledged for 2014.

Each country’s fair share is calculated based on its share in the global GNI. Contributions include both bilateral and imputed multilateral funding.

According to the charity, a combination of diminished savings among Syrians and reduced international assistance means that refugees will increasingly be forced into desperate situations, where child labour, prostitution, early marriage and begging become a part of their lives.

Deep pockets

Switzerland is not at the bottom of the list though. Some countries, such as Italy, Japan and France have provided less than 35% of what Oxfam sees as their fair share. On the other hand, Britain, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark, along with Gulf donors such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, have each provided 30% more than their fair share of funding for the humanitarian response.

 “Switzerland is committed to continue providing much-needed aid to the victims of this Syrian crisis,” Carole Wälti, spokeswoman for the Swiss foreign ministry told “Since March 2011, the SDC [Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation] has contributed a total of CHF85 million in aid for assisting the victims of this crisis.”

The foreign ministry said the Swiss financial contribution supports the International committee of the Red Cross, various UN agencies as well as international and national NGOs. Switzerland also implements its own projects through its field offices in Amman and Beirut. Besides aid, the country deploys technical experts to UN agencies and supports international coordination and humanitarian dialogue.

However, it is not just financial assistance where the charity believes rich countries can do much better.

The Oxfam briefing paper also portrays Switzerland as a laggard when it comes to fixing quotas for taking in Syrian refugees, fulfilling only 28% of its potential. According to Oxfam, its fair share should be 1804.3 Syrian refugees instead of the 500 it has pledged to accept by the end of 2015.

Based on Oxfam’s research, rich and developed countries have pledged to host 1% of the total number of Syrian refugees registered in neighbouring countries – only one-fifth of the 5% recommended by Oxfam. 

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