State of the Syria Crisis Response: An Assessment of Humanitarian and Development Challenges and Ways Forward

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, 11 million people have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring states. This has put an incredible strain on the hosting societies, particularly in Lebanon,Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The international community has dispatched more than $17 billion[1] in funding to Syria Response Plans, 300 organizations have implemented projects, and thousands of people have been activated to assist both host communities and refugees themselves to cope with the circumstances.
For a comprehensive review of the response, Voluntas Advisory addressed practitioners from international organizations, NGOs, government authorities, donors, the private sector and academia, covering the cross section of the refugee and host community response from workers on the ground in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to key decision makers.
Overall our findings show that there is widespread disillusionment among the practitioners with both the situation and the response. This criticism from within the humanitarian and development system underscores the need to act to ensure the viability and relevance of the response to the people in need.
The conditions in the neighboring countries for refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities remain dire and are not set to improve. This is supported by the fact that 56% of practitioners expect the situation to worsen one year from now, while only 11% believe it will improve. Youth in particular are being robbed of their right to a future[2] with limited access to education and employment.
Despite the tremendous efforts by national authorities, UN agencies, and NGOs alike to address these challenges, performance is not perceived to be adequate. National NGOs are the only actors perceived by survey participants to be performing well on addressing host communities’ challenges. In contrast, only about one third believe that donors, national authorities, and international organizations perform well in this area.
Negative perceptions of the Syria response are supported by the fact that a majority of practitioners believe that the strategies of donors, national authorities, and international organizations are not meaningful. The response is furthermore hampered by a lack of cooperation and coordination between the various actors engaged in the response both from UN agencies to NGOs and national authorities.
With these critical response challenges, practitioners have a pessimistic outlook on the future. More than eight out of 10 do not believe that the national and international response will improve within the next year. The London Conference held in February addressing the challenges to the large refugee flows is not perceived to have had a significant impact, and only 49% believe that the World Humanitarian Summit and Grand Bargain outcomes will have a positive influence in the foreseeable future. Consequently, Europe and other parts of the world should brace themselves for a continued increase in refugees trying to reach their borders, as 89% of practitioners believe that the influx of refugees to third countries will increase.
The findings highlight that new and innovative thinking is needed to improve the response and the situation in neighboring countries. More strategic thinking is needed to adjust funding focus to actors that have a meaningful strategy and are capable of ensuring a right to a future for both local and Syrian refugees. A number of solutions are highlighted in this report as both relevant and feasible by the practitioners to heighten the performance of the response. These include harmonizing and simplifying donors’ reporting requirements, including recipients of aid in decision-making and increasing collaborative, multi-year funding, and planning for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, efforts should be made to make the response more inclusive of other non-traditional actors such as the private sector, social enterprises, local municipalities, religious groups, and academia.
[1] All monetary figures reported in USD.

[2] As also highlighted a year ago by a joint group of international NGOs in the briefing paper Right to a Future available at:

Publishing Date: 
Friday, 1 January 2016
Resource Type: 
Studies and Reports
Refugees, Humanitarian Financing & Resources