Posted on 20 August 2019
Originally from Newshub, written by James Fyfe
There are calls for the Government to take action on the Syrian crisis and resume funding for humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.
In recent years the New Zealand Government has stepped away from the Middle Eastern conflict, focussing its aid efforts on the Pacific instead, says Josie Pagani, director of the Council for International Development.
But a new petition organised by aid agencies is hoping to garner support from Kiwis to push the Government into giving aid to Syria.
Since 2011, the Government has committed around $30 million to Syria, but "funding stopped a couple of years ago," Pagani told The AM Show Monday morning.
"When the new Government came in, they made a call that where we could have the most influence with our aid budget was in the Pacific."
Pagani says that while she supports the Government's initiatives in the Pacific, that doesn't mean the need for aid has lessened in Syria.
"I agree that this is our region, this is where we can have influence and where we belong; we have a shared Pacific destiny and the NGOs and the charities support that. But where there is great need, and we've seen in Syria, for example, the civil war is not over...that's the tragedy."
Since the Government's move to provide less funding for Syria, many charities have "had to rely entirely on the generosity of the public," says Pagani.
"The public has been amazing - we've managed to keep helping I think about 147,000 people in Syria during the last couple of years based on that public funding.
"That's food, sanitation, setting up early childhood education places for kids, classrooms and refugee camps - there's a lot of practical stuff that our New Zealand charities go in and do".
At the core of the aid agencies' petition, is the hope that the plight of the Syrian people will not be forgotten.
Pagani says that from New Zealand it is all too easy to lose touch with the brutal and complicated conflict, which has seen more than 5.6 million people to flee the country.
"You get fatigue from seeing so much suffering and tragedy in the world and you just feel like Syria's gone on for eight years, then you start hearing news that the civil war might be ending, but it's a very fragile peace," she says.
According to the Council for International Development's webpage, the aim of the petition is to ask "our Government to re-join the work being supported by the New Zealand public, and to help New Zealand aid agencies continue working with Syrian refugees. Our Government has previously contributed support to the Syrian humanitarian response, and we are asking that they recommit their support for 2019 and beyond".
Pagani says that although at times it looks like the situation in Syria may be improving, the situation is "fragile".
"Whatever peace is happening at the moment in some places in Syria is incredibly fragile...the solution's going to be complicated."