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The Syria Conference in Brussels, a step forward towards the protection of those most at risk

1 May 2018
On 24 April, Plan International EU Office attended the second Brussels conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”. Plan International, through its expanding range of programmes in the region, directly witnesses the increasing risks individuals and families face, both in refugee and host communities, which force them to turn to negative coping mechanisms. That is largely due to the lack of access to basic services, economic/livelihood opportunities, and protection services.

The conference – organised by the EU and the UN – aimed to strengthen the international engagement to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and host communities. It also underlined the importance of EU and international support to ensure that the UN-led talks in Geneva are successful in finding a political solution. The first day of the conference offered space for a dialogue with about 200 NGOs active in Syria and the region. Their work is key to securing the livelihood and education needs of the Syrian population across the region, especially in light of the deteriorating situation on the ground.

Plan International, with programmes in Lebanon and Jordan, continues to emphasise the grave effects of the conflict, particularly when it comes to child protection needs. Cases of child labour in the region are rising which, in combination with the rapid worsening of livelihoods, places children at the risk of both physical and sexualised violence. In addition, the breakdown of social structures and the increase of lawlessness and economic insecurity are bringing about a greater risk of gender-based violence. Adolescent girls in particular face many violence-related risks, including sexual violence, sexual exploitation, kidnapping and forced and early marriage. More integrated GBV and reproductive health services are therefore needed in many communities to prevent such grave atrocities from occurring.

Plan International thus calls on both donors and the international community to reinforce their commitment, especially with regards to host countries coping with economic implications as a result of neighbouring conflicts, to enhance the protection of girls and women, as well as to dedicate long-term and flexible resources to child protection and GBV programming. Plan International also reaffirms the need to strengthen national legislation and policies, as well as community-based interventions to build self-reliance, promote positive coping mechanisms and encourage social cohesion.