UN refugee chief in Kuwait after $110m aid donation

The UN high commissioner for refugees will today travel to Kuwait to thank the country for its record contribution to victims of the Syria conflict

The UN high commissioner for refugees will today travel to Kuwait to thank the country for its record contribution to victims of the Syria conflict, in a sign the GCC states are taking a more prominent role in global aid efforts.

Antonio Guterres is expected to meet with Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah following the Gulf state’s $110m donation to UNHCR last month, the largest on record from any GCC state to the UN’s refugee agency.

The contribution represented vital breathing space for UN agencies in the Arab state, at a time when many faced a catastrophic funding shortfall.

“There is no way to fund the needs of the Syrian people, inside and outside, with the traditional budgets,” Guterres said, following a press event with Kuwaiti Ambassador Dharar Abdul-Razzak Razzooqi in Geneva. “This is not a crisis like any one. [This] is an extremely important contribution because it allows a breathing space that is necessary for other contributions to come.”

The money was part of a wider $300m donation pledged by Kuwait in January, after the emirate hosted a UN-led conference to raise funding for aid efforts in Syria. The sum was matched by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while Bahrain pledged a further $20m. More than $1.5bn was raised overall to help civilians affected by the conflict, underscoring the GCC's growing support for global aid efforts.

To date, Kuwait has disbursed $275m to United Nations agencies, including $40m to the World Food Programme, $53m to UNICEF and $53m to the World Health Organisation.