This is the second report by Steve Price-Thomas from the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Read the first report here

St. Petersburg, Russia — It was all smiles as presidents Putin and Obama met on the steps of the Constantine Palace, venue of the G20 Summit. But smiles aren’t enough: leaders attending the G20 summit must seize this opportunity to make real progress on helping find a political solution to the Syria crisis.

World leaders must not squander this key moment for peace. Too many lives have been torn apart by the conflict, with more than 100,000 dead, two million refugees having fled to neighboring countries, and the stability of the wider region at stake.

With the threat of imminent military intervention and arms still pouring into the conflict, now is a crucial moment for world leaders, particularly Putin and Obama, to overcome their differences and prioritize finding a political solution to the crisis. Military intervention at this stage will not help solve the conflict and instead risks making the humanitarian situation worse.

Too many opportunities have been missed in recent months — and with the very real threat of military intervention, the timing of this G20 is critical. The eyes of the world are turned on St. Petersburg to see whether leaders shoulder their responsibilities or instead choose to let ordinary Syrians down.

The devastating humanitarian consequences of the Syria crisis continue to deepen each day. UNHCR has announced that the number of refugees fleeing from Syria had now passed the two million mark.

Earlier this week, 265 Arab Civil Society Organizations wrote to G20 leaders calling on them to help deliver an immediate ceasefire and the Geneva peace conference. In the special letter, organizations from 19 different countries urged G20 members to use their influence to encourage all parties to the conflict to come to the table to achieve a just and sustainable peace for all Syrians.

The letter states:

“The window of opportunity is closing, the Syrian people have suffered much too long. As Arab voices we stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria. We urge the international community, specifically the US and Russia to demonstrate strong leadership now to bring peace to Syria, and to our whole region.”

In addition to prioritizing a political solution to the crisis, G20 leaders must dig deep and respond to the need for increased funds to help finance the humanitarian response. The scale of the humanitarian crisis is already massive and every day that peace is delayed leads to more killing and suffering. Many countries have already made generous contributions to the aid effort but it is simply not enough given at least half of the Syrian population has been affected by the conflict. The financial resources of the humanitarian community — including Oxfam — are already stretched to the limit.

Leaders must not simply pay lip-service to peace. For months Syrians have had the hope of a peace conference in Geneva dangled in front of them — leaders now must now turn that hope into a reality. They have a real chance to make a difference to the lives of millions of Syrians.



Steve Price-Thomas is Oxfam’s G20/BRICSAM Strategy Manager. Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in more than 90 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.

Photo: poniblog / flickr