Last week, UNHCR issued its updated Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees and appealed for $2.9 billion in humanitarian assistance, almost double its December 2012 request. They now estimate that by the end of the year half of the population of Syria will be in need of aid. This includes an anticipated 3.45 million Syrian refugees and 6.8 million Syrians inside the country. The governments of Lebanon and Jordan are also appealing for funds and the humanitarian appeal for inside Syria is $1.4 billion. According to the U.N., the total appeal for assistance for displaced Syrians in 2013 is $5 billion. This is the largest humanitarian appeal in history.
The United States is doing its best to provide aid to the Syrian people. Since the crisis began, we have contributed $514 million in humanitarian assistance and remain the single-largest donor of aid to the U.N. agencies and the host countries themselves. Clearly, the unprecedented scale of this crisis requires that the United States and the entire international community do more.
After more than two years, the violence in Syria continues unabated and the humanitarian crisis it has spawned continues to spiral out of control with no end in sight. Sadly, and most disturbing, not only does the violence in Syria continue but, according to the most recent report of the U.N.’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab republic, it “has reached new levels of brutality.” The Commission states that its report, “documents for the first time the systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents and forcible displacement. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace. Referral to justice remains paramount.”
We must, and we can, do more to help the Syrian people. I look forward to hearing the views of our distinguished panel of witnesses as to how we can accomplish that goal.
On our first panel today we will receive testimony from Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Anne Richard. Prior to her appointment as Assistant Secretary, Ms. Richard was Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She also served as the Director of the Secretary of State’s Office of Resources, Plans and Policy, and was the Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the Peace Corps. Ms. Richards holds a B.S. in Foreign Service From Georgetown University and an M.A. in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago.
Our second panel consists of three experts on Syrian refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Dr. Michel Gabaudan is President of Refugees International. He testified before the Commission in 2008 regarding the plight of Iraqi refugees when he served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean. Trained as a medical doctor in addition to holding a master’s degree in tropical public health, Dr. Gabaudan’s career with UNHCR spanned more than 25 years. We welcome him back as President of Refugees International and look forward to his testimony.
Ms. Jana Mason is Senior Advisor for Government Relations and External Affairs at the Washington D.C. office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Prior to joining UNHCR, Ms. Mason was Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and also worked for eleven years with the U.S. Committee for Refugees. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, a master’s degree from the University of Virginia, and a law degree from Georgetown University.
Ms. Yassar Bittar is a Government Relations and Advocacy Associate for the Syrian American Council in Washington, D.C. She is responsible for briefing congressional offices and the Department of State on the Syrian crisis and for grassroots mobilization with the Syrian American community. Recently Ms. Bittar has led groups of Syrian American activists to liberated regions of Syria, taking a closer look into the camps for the internally displaced and civilian efforts in liberated areas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.