24 November 2014
On behalf of the people of Syria and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw your attention to the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria.
More than one year has passed since the UN Security Council adopted its first presidential statement on the humanitarian situation in Syria (S/PRST/203/15). In that time, the UN Security Council has adopted two resolutions seeking to ameliorate Syrians’ suffering (S/RES/2139 and S/RES/2165), the UN Secretary-General has issued nine reports documenting the gravity of Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, and the international community has invested heavily in an attempt to provide aid to Syrians trapped behind conflict lines. Despite these efforts, the humanitarian situation in Syria has deteriorated.
12.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance—up from 9.3 million one year ago. 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and 3.2 million are now refugees – a staggering 50 percent increase since November 2013. Across North and East Syria, religious and ethnic minorities now live in fear of violent extremists, with thousands of Kurdish civilians trapped in Kobane/Ayn al-Arab at the Syrian-Turkish border.
There is a clear cause for the devastation and destruction in Syria: the Assad dictatorship. Over the past four years, Syrian regime forces have engaged in a calculated strategy to kill, torture, and starve those communities that oppose Assad’s brutality. They have defied Security Council resolutions and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The immense human suffering caused by the Assad regime’s brutality has fomented the spread of extremism and transformed Syria into a safe-haven for terrorist groups.
As Annex I details, among its widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights, the Syrian regime continues to use heavy weapons, cluster munitions, ballistic missiles, barrel bombs and deadly chemical weapon chlorine gas to kill innocent civilians. These illegal actions have increased since the onset of international airstrikes in Syria in September 2014. Rather than work to eliminate ISIS, the Syrian regime has chosen to significantly intensify its aerial assaults on moderate opposition-held areas in rif Damascus, Aleppo, Idlib and along the Syrian-Jordanian border. In recent weeks, its deadly barrel bomb attacks have accounted for hundreds of deaths, including those of innocent women and children.
Alongside the Syrian regime’s deadly attacks on civilians has been a policy of siege warfare. In direct contravention of UN Security Council resolution 2165 and 2139, the Syrian regime has continued to deny UN aid agencies and international nongovernmental organizations access to Syrians in need. In hard-to-reach areas, regime officials deliberately deploy administrative obstacles to slow and even halt aid delivery. In opposition-held areas lying along Syria’s borders, regime forces block the delivery of assistance and discourage UN agencies from engaging in cross-border and cross-line aid.
Despite the many impediments deployed by the Syrian regime to stem aid delivery, Syria’s moderate forces continue to use Security Council resolution 2165 to deliver humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands Syrians. Throughout the past month, the Syrian National Coalition’s partners, the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) and the Interim Government, have delivered goods and services to hundreds of thousands of Syrians, through approximately 300 cross-border trucks. The ACU has delivered flour, education kits, medicine and medical goods, winter kits, and non-food items.
Resolution 2165 established a comprehensive mandate to enhance the delivery of cross-border aid and reach 3.5 million Syrians. But they have not been reached. The mandate must be fully utilized by UN agencies, particularly with respect to cross-border delivery. The Syrian National Coalition therefore urges the UN Security Council to act without delay to:
- significantly strengthen resolution 2165. The mandate is soon due to expire. It should not just be renewed, but strengthened to ensure cross-border delivery at scale and impose consequences for non-compliance by the regime;
- use its collective weight to insist on coordination between UN agencies and Syrian aid organizations, who are the key to delivery in opposition-held areas, but have not been sufficiently coordinated with or consulted in the delivery of assistance and longer-term strategizing; and
- insist that UN agencies make full use of the 2165 mandate, in the manner envisaged by the Security Council, particularly in terms of extensive cross-border delivery.
In parallel to our requests to the Security Council, we are stepping up our efforts with partners to increase the flow of aid into Syria through non-UN channels. There are too many lives at stake to rely only on one channel that is not working yet at capacity.
Your Excellency, another month passes with increased violence and escalated regime violations of resolution 2139 which called for medical neutrality, an end to arbitrary detention and torture, a lifting of sieges and the cessation of the use of indiscriminate weapons. Syrians have found no reprieve as the Security Council continues to fail to demand compliance to Security Council resolution 2139. The international community cannot let another month pass with resolution 2139 being treated as nothing more than an expendable piece of paper.
Your Excellency, as Syrians embark upon their fourth winter amidst war and devastation, the need to resolve the Syrian crisis has never been greater. Humanitarian assistance will provide a necessary but temporary respite from our country’s suffering. However, to sustainably resolve the humanitarian situation in Syria, as well as the political and security crises, the Security Council must redouble efforts to end the conflict in Syria and ensure a political transition to democracy in keeping with the Geneva Communiqué as referenced in resolutions 2118, 2139 and 2165. The Syrian National Coalition remains committed to working towards this solution. It is imperative that the Council play its part.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations