DUBAI // Children’s education and the protection of civilians must be the focus of humanitarian action in countries hit by internal strife, according to a senior French minister.
Andre Vallini, minister of state for development and Francophonie, who is visiting the UAE for two days, was speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition, which began on Monday.
“The Syrian crisis is a tragedy,” he said. “It has already been going on for many years and it will continue for many years if we don’t do something about it. All these children hit by the crisis, displaced and refugees, this pressure already on their shoulders, we need to provide them this education because they’re going to stay months, years within these refugee camps and we need to do even more for them when it comes to education.”
The UAE has been working with the United Nations for years, supporting the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. It has also been working with Unicef to help combat malnutrition among Syrian children affected by the crisis.
“The UAE for us is a reference because, today, humanitarian aid is a vector of power,” said Michel Miraillet, France’s ambassador to the UAE. “The UAE is with us in Jordan, we see them in Yemen, Mali, and there is a real know-how, which is developing. We want to develop this interoperability with the Red Crescent.”
Mr Vallini said the UAE was making “tremendous efforts” in the field of humanitarian aid. “Dubai is one of the states that is doing the most in the humanitarian field,” he said.
“The UAE should be saluted for their investments and involvement and the way they exhibit this support and aid for humanitarian projects.”
Budget constraints in Europe have caused an impediment to humanitarian action. “The UAE, like other countries in the world, is being hit by the financial crisis in the world,” he said.
“But if we reduce the humanitarian budget, we will only make the crisis worse and the remedy would be a burden,” Mr Vallini said. “We need to increase the help for developing humanitarian aid and action. This will create sustainability and continuity between emergency aid, humanitarian action and the help for development.”
He said a global approach to the issue was needed, but “education for children [in Syria] will be my priority.” “I am sure that it is shared by different actors in the humanitarian field. We need to save them and make sure they don’t become part of a lost generation.”
The UAE has played a growing role in humanitarian assistance regionally in Syria, Yemen and Palestine. Two years ago, it was unofficially named the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income.
“When security levels will be [more adequate] in Yemen, we will be able to assist,” Mr Vallini said. “Today, we are unable to protect humanitarian personnel there. Yemen is a very problematic point when it comes to protecting civilians and human rights. By raising awareness on these countries that have been ravaged by internal conflicts, we need to highlight the need to guarantee the protection of civilians and, more importantly, the international human rights.”