Paris hopes to build bridges between Middle East and European organisations in relief work
France hopes to increase its aid efforts and build new partnerships in the Middle East to cope with the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the region, according to French government officials and NGOs.
Speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (Dihad), Dominique Mas, head of humanitarian missions at the Crisis Centre of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, said France hopes to build bridges between Middle Eastern and European organisations involved in humanitarian work in the region.
“Dihad is the right place to meet everybody from the Middle East, all our potential partners,” he said. “We want to build real partnerships between Middle East partners and French or European partners.”
France, which is the only EU country with a formal presence at Dihad, is heavily involved in humanitarian efforts in the Middle East and Africa. This year’s Dihad marks the first time France is participating in the conference as an exhibitor.
In 2014, the Middle East received about half of the total humanitarian and food aid dispatched by the French government globally. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, France has provided assistance worth €75 million, which has included humanitarian and medical assistance to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.
In Iraq, French humanitarian aid totaled €5.2 million, which included six humanitarian flights to Erbil which brought in almost 100 tonnes of aid. Mas said Dihad provides an opportunity for French government officials and NGOs to learn about how to improve humanitarian operations in the Middle East, as well as share the lessons of France’s long history of aid missions in other parts of the world, such as in Africa.
“Our idea is to try share experience,” he said. “We hope we can bring some lessons, good practices, innovations and new ways of funding, new equipment. In return, we can learn from cultural, social practices and good experiences from regional foundations and governments.”
The French humanitarian capabilities on display at Dihad include emergency electricity and light services, airbus helicopters for delivering supplies, and rapidly deployable, air-conditioned structures for use as shelters in field camps. Additionally, Mas noted that no matter how much aid is being given and received, there is constant need for more.
“Everywhere you have a crisis, you are under-served,” he said. “Even in Ukraine they are under-served. Of course, in Syria, it’s terrible. They’re under-served, and what to do with all the refugees? It’s not only a problem of money. It’s a problem of giving these people back their dignity and their autonomy.”
Mas added that he believes that French and Gulf NGOs and donors can help each other fund and develop viable humanitarian projects.
“In Syria, or in Iraq, I want to see how we build a project and work on it together,” he said. “When we find a project, what we do is put a little bit of money and other people come and join. But the most important thing is what we share after. I’m interested in French NGOs and companies being partners of those in the Gulf, to mix funding and knowledge sharing.”
On March 31, Arab and European donors will come together in Kuwait for the third international donors conference for Syria, which Mas says he hopes will help find ways to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.
“We can do it. It’s not impossible, if we work together, the Gulf and European countries,” he said. “I’ve crossed my fingers. I know that if all countries, in all regions, understand the tragedy and risk of this crisis, we will find a solution.”
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