The United Nations launched its largest humanitarian aid request ever today, asking for $12.9 billion on behalf of 500 organizations - $6.5 billion of which would address problems from the Syrian conflict. The UN is trying to persuade China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to contribute more (especially as the United States and Europe have been struggling with domestic economic crises), but its fundraising goals are rarely met.
The AP reports on today's announcement (emphasis mine):
The United Nations said Monday it will need nearly $13 billion in aid in 2014 to reach at least 52 million people in 17 countries, including the millions of Syrians who have been displaced by their civil war.
"This is the largest amount we've ever had to request at the start of the year," said Valerie Amos, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief. "The complexity and scale of what we are doing is rising all the time."
The aid is to be provided by 500 organizations, including the main U.N. agencies for food, refugees and children.
About half of the requested $12.9 billion in aid — some $6.5 billion — would go toward delivering food, shelter and health care in Syria and neighboring countries affected by the war.
The UN states that its ambitious 2014 donor requests are "attainable," but history has shown that it does not have a very outstanding record of meeting its fundraising goals. Although appeals resulted in a record $8 billion last year, the UN itself admits that it only reached about 60% of its 2013 target.
Human rights advocates have criticized the UN for its inability to raise the necessary funds and the international community for its reluctant response, especially with respect to the multinational humanitarian disaster of the Syrian crisis.
Here are merely a couple of examples: Public health researcher Fouad Fouad said, "This is not a new crisis. This is not the first conflict. The UN should be doing better." Human Rights Watch advocacy head Peggy Hicks commented that the Syrian government's cooperation on humanitarian aid resulting from UN pressure is "nowhere near enough."
Other major components of the UN's request for humanitarian aid in 2014 include:
It remains to be seen if humanitarian aid will top the political agendas of traditional donors like America in 2014 or if the various crises will bring in new donors like China or Saudi Arabia. There is currently no indication that the appeal has the international political will to be effective.