Syria: What Chance to Stop the Slaughter?
. . .Some governments, including the United States, have begun quietly funding private humanitarian groups to provide cross-border assistance. But the quantities required are too great, and the threats of violence too grave, for private groups to meet these demands on their own. A major UN-led operation is needed.
The United Nations will ordinarily not undertake such operations without the consent of the government whose population requires assistance. The Syrian government has been loath to permit such cross-border humanitarian aid because that would undermine its efforts to make life miserable in rebel-held areas. The UN Security Council could order Syria to allow cross-border assistance, but through the end of September, Russia would have none of it. Nyet prevailed.
The chemical weapons accord provided an opportunity to address these humanitarian needs. Just five days after the Security Council Resolution 2118 affirming the deal, on September 27 , Russia accepted a . . .
Security Council presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/15) THIS IS A BLUEPRINT FOR A RESOLUTION ON FACILITATING & DELIVERING HUMANITARIAN AID!
. . .urging Syria to “take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations,” including, “where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries.” A presidential statement is less authoritative than a formal resolution, but that should not obscure the fact that Russia, Syria’s most important ally, has now effectively ordered it to allow such aid. The Security Council asked the UN secretary-general to report back on how the statement was being implemented, opening the way for additional steps by the council should blockages persist.
The United Nations should seize this opportunity, make concrete demands for access by specific deadlines, and report any further resistance promptly to the Security Council.
In Lebanon, the government estimates that Syrian refugees are now more than 20% of the population. Syria’s neighboring countries cannot be expected to bear the full burden of the refugee crisis.Iraq
need an infusion of resources to meet critical needs of both refugee and host populations, including health care, education, housing, water and sanitation. Concerned governments should generously assist Syria’s neighbors, but all need to keep their doors open to fleeing asylum seekers.
Concerned governments should also continue to pressure the Syrian regime to allow greater humanitarian access, both across the Syrian border and within the country to opposition-held and contested areas. Governments should support engagement of the UN with the Syrian regime to expand humanitarian aid and should not be deterred from ensuring that civilians inside Syria have access to life-saving assistance. In addition, armed opposition groups should guarantee security for those providing assistance in areas under their control.
In the coming weeks, there will be ample opportunity for China, Russia, Brazil, Japan and other G20 governments to step up support for the Syrian people and the countries experiencing the impact of the ever-increasing crisis. During the high-level meetings and general debate at the UN General Assembly beginning September 23, donor countries should greatly increase pledges of financial assistance and ensure the funds are dispersed rapidly and effectively.
Likewise, UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting on September 30 will be a forum for UN member countries and international financial institutions to respond to the appeal by Syria’s neighbors. In the midst of political wrangling, no one should forget that millions of Syrians continue to suffer day in and day out. At a minimum, governments can provide the medical care, food, shelter, and other assistance they so urgently need.