More than $2.4 billion in donations was pledged Wednesday to help civilians in Syria, primarily from Western and Arab nations. However, not much is being said about the countries who are not assisting in relief efforts, especially the second largest economy of China.
At the conference held on Wednesday, which included representatives from 69 countries, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said $6.5 billion was needed to provide full assistance for Syrian refugees and civilians at the conference. That is almost three times more than the $2.4 billion donated thus far.
This amount consists of $1.7 billion from the United States, $60 million from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, $165 million from Britain, and $225 million from the European Union. The Emir of host country Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-sabah, pledged an additional $500 million.
Furthermore, Norway donated NOK 460 million on Wednesday, which is as Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said, “[Norway’s] largest single amount of foreign aid ever.” Thus far, the country has provided NOK 1.3 billion ($213 million). Brende added that he hopes this “will encourage other countries to donate generously as well.”
One country not mentioned in these reports is China. At Wednesday’s conference, Chinese Special Envoy to the Middle East, Wu Sike, noted their full awareness of the situation in Syria and he emphasized how China is actively providing aid to assist in relief efforts. However, their donations do not back up his words. According to a Chinese publication, CCTV, the country has donated only $3.3 million to relief efforts in Syria as confirmed on Jan. 1. This is compared to Asia’s second largest economy, Japan, who have donated USD $90 million, according to a June 2013 Japan Foreign Affairs Report.
This is not to take away from China’s place in the world in terms of relief efforts made as a country. Their relationship with Africa, for example, is well noted; not just as trading partners, but for helping the development of essential institutions, such as schools and hospitals, throughout the continent.
However, currently there is an urgent crisis in Syria that needs contributions from the countries that are capable of contributing.
Wu told China’s Xinhua news that a “comprehensive and thorough political solution” is the most effective way of relieving the Syrian humanitarian crisis. He also emphasized how countries should be careful of not letting relief efforts interfere with a settlement in the politics of Syria.
The relationship between China and Syria is described by CNN as “more nuanced.” They note how China sees Syria as an important trading partner, and were, according to 2010 data from the European Commission, their third-largest importer.
Not much is said about relief efforts specifically, but CNN also reports how China is reluctant to involve themselves in the internal affairs of Syria. This follows policy issues with Tibet and violation of human rights allegations, along with controversies in the Libyan issue.
Currently, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR] reports there are 2.3 million Syrian refugees, on top of 4.25 million of Syrians who are displaced within the country.
China is correct in that political stability is crucial, but that will take time. However, there is a crisis occurring now among its civilians that needs immediate attention. The UNHCR stats could not emphasize the reality of the situation any more. A large economy in China can help profoundly in reaching the $6.5 billion goal in relief efforts set by the UN, hopefully Wednesday’s conference was a wake up call.
By Kollin Lore