Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher

Former British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

19th June 2013 Beirut, Lebanon

G8 Summit: Lebanon does not face Syria refugee crisis alone

The windy resort of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland this week must have felt far from the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ripped apart by conflict. Yet many of the G8 leaders meeting there have seen the human impact for themselves.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s focus on stopping the war in Syria is given greater urgency in large part by conversations he had with Syrian refugees in Jordan. Samantha Cameron visited Lebanon earlier this year, in her capacity as an ambassador for Save the Children, and has spoken of how moved she was by what she saw and heard.

There are 1.5m Syrians in Lebanon, including over half a million registered refugees. This is like every Romanian coming to the UK, or every American to China. Half are children. Yes, half are children. At this rate, the number registered will hit 1m by the end of the year. The UN launched last week the largest ever humanitarian appeal, for a huge $1.7bn.

So we should be proud that the UK used the G8 Summit to galvanise a response of $1.5bn, including $300m from the US, $275m from Britain (our largest ever humanitarian announcement), $115m from Canada, and $6.5m from Russia.

The EU has recently announced over $500m in additional funding. We showed that a time of austerity has blunted neither our outrage nor our compassion. The UK contribution alone will reach over 1m people needing food, shelter, education, medicine, dignity.

I’ll be writing in the Lebanese press tomorrow about what this will mean in practical terms for Lebanon, which is hosting the most victims of the Syria conflict. The G8 recognised the sacrifices and generosity this entails. We will also signal in the coming weeks new support for the army’s stabilisation effort.

The impact of our help will be greatest if a consensus government is formed that can lead the response plan and get the nation behind the army. It will make most difference in the context of a neutral Lebanon focused on Lebanese national interests, not one that sends its sons to fight other countries’ wars in Syria.

As I’ve posted before ‘Syrian uprising two years on’ all these relentless statistics can never capture the reality, nor the individual stories, of loss and displacement. Please support the UNHCR campaign, asking you to Take 1 minute to support a family forced to flee.  ’ll also be marking World Refugee Day tomorrow with Save the Children. You can find out more about how best to support them here.

Of course, all these efforts are important but insufficient while the conflict in Syria continues to rage. UK decisions are shaped above all by two factors: how best to protect civilians, and how to get to a political rather than military solution.  We’re trying to put the fire out, not fan the flames.

So it was important that the G8 kept the Geneva political process alive, and that it agreed on improving humanitarian access and tackling the extremist minority among the opposition (thereby negating the regime’s propaganda about the West supporting terrorism). It also underlined the importance of the Syrian state remaining intact, so that the long, hard job of rebuilding Syria has a foundation – a lesson learnt from Iraq.

We should also be honest about our disagreements: the G8 exposed the dividing line between those arming the regime and those aiding the victims.

Like Lough Erne, Lebanon can also feel windswept. Buffeted by international politics, by its neighbours, by inherent tensions. It cannot be left alone to cope with the challenges that the Syria crisis has created. The international community has an obligation to be at Lebanon’s side, in deeds not just words. The G8 said they would: hold us to that.

5 comments on “G8 Summit: Lebanon does not face Syria refugee crisis alone

  1. Dir sir :
    My name is samir- aljumaat. Birth date : Damascus 1969 . My nationality is Syrian-palastenin
    I have Diploma at electrical –engineering branch –power from Damascus unviversity1993 . I have two children .
    Dany 11 years old and leen 10 years old .
    My wife have secondary studies at vet health .
    Now i am prim minister of internal investigation at petroleum ministry .
    At last month i join to work team to investigate at contracts of petroleum international companies witch provide large continuity of petroleum to Syria by contract for hundred millions dollars and then we explore that there is alot of cheat by an important persons at that companies that make my life and my family life is in dangerous if i publish the report and say the names of these people.
    I ask your kind to give me un appointment to have un interview to declare my intercommunicates and my work .
    I put my life and my family life between your hands to help us .
    I have all the facts and paper witch prove my speech .
    Tanks for helping us

  2. Hello I do not know who you are but I want you to send me your mobile phone number in Lebanon in order to help me to resort to Britain I and my little girl

  3. Dear Tom ,
    what a proper and excellent story to read . So pls. allow me to pick-up the -to me- 5 K-Sentences: #1 :”yet many of the G 8 leaders …have seen the human impact…for themselves”. I think , if they had seen this human disaster
    with their own eyes the current Syria crisis would have find already an end .
    #2 : ” I ´ll be writing in the Lebanese press…”.This means also that you ´re drawing much more attention to the fact , that the Lebanon is hosting the most victims and has – logical – the most critical problems with this horrible situation. #3 : “Take 1 minute”.It can ´t be said enough how big and POSITIVE the impact could be if we all would do so and support one single family. # 4 : ” UK-Decisions are shaped above all by 2 factors…”. If all and not only the G8 countries would focus their efforts to find back to the (peace)- negotiations-table instead of how to find the best military solution at the battlefields – we didn´t have to try to put “the fire out”. This kind of flame would have stopped to burn. #5 : “The International Community”. I do full agree to your complete last chapter but , Tom , pls. allow me to ask you : Did the ENTIRE G 8 really said “they would” (e.g. no weapon delieveries ) ? If so – what about Russia ´s PM Putin ? Best wishes and a happy weekend , liebste Grüßle, Hawyl faur, Ingo-Steven Wais, Stuttgart/Cardiff

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About Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011. Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford…

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011.

Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford College), graduating with a First class degree in Modern History. He has an MA in Modern History, and is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College for International Studies, Oxford.

He is married to Louise Fletcher and they have two sons, Charles (born 2006) and Theodor (born 2011). Tom enjoys political history, cricket (Strollers CC), and mountains, and is the co-founder of 2020 (a progressive think tank).

Tom was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year’s Honours, for services to the Prime Minister.