UN has failed Syria: NGOs

The United Nations Security Council has “failed” the Syrian people, according to some of the world’s largest NGOs.

A "report card" compiled by more than 20 aid organisations working in and around Syria – including Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision – gives the Security Council and the wider world a fail grade for attempts to stop the killing and to get aid to those most in need.

The damning appraisal comes ahead of the fourth anniversary of the conflict, which has displaced more than 7.6 million Syrians internally and caused some 3.8 million others to become refugees in other countries.

A year ago, the Security Council passed Resolution 2139, which urged states to vastly increase aid to people in need across the country.

It was followed in July by a second resolution permitting cross border aid from Turkey without the prior permission of the Syrian government. The two raised hopes that more aid would reach those in need. 

"There is no humanitarian solution... Blankets will not bring this to an end."

Yet the NGO report card said those resolutions have “rung hollow” for Syrian civilians, as all sides in the conflict have failed to stand by their promises. There are now nearly 5.6 million children in need inside Syria – an increase of over one million since the end of 2013.

The primary responsibility for the humanitarian hardship, the NGOs said, lies with the various fighting groups including the Syrian government, but, they added, the Security Council has also failed to properly enforce its resolutions.

UN aid convoys reached only 1.1 million people in the worst affected areas of Syria - almost 1.8 million fewer people than the year before, it said.

The report scored the Security Council on four key criteria: the protection of civilians, political developments, financial support to the humanitarian response and humanitarian access. On the first three, it graded international efforts an F for fail, while humanitarian access was given a D for no improvement.

“We are all elated when the resolution [2139] was adopted a year ago. I thought it would [get] better,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the signatories to the report. “But one year on it has got worse – there are twice as many people in hard-to-reach to areas. Half a million more kids out of school.”

He told IRIN the report card aimed to force attention back to a conflict that he said had caused the largest displacement from a single country since the Second World War.

“The number one message is: there is no military solution. That will not happen for any of the parties. Secondly, there is no humanitarian solution either. Blankets will not bring this to an end. It is only a political solution where maximum pressure is put on from the entire world including Iran, Saudi Arabia, the US and Russia.”

Global alliances

Syria’s conflict has been complicated by regional and global alliances – with Iran, Russia and China lining up behind President Bashar al-Assad, while the US, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are calling for his resignation. This has led to stagnation at the UN, with permanent Security Council members Russia and China previously blocking US-backed resolutions on Syria. In the absence of a coherent global response, radical groups such as the so-called Islamic State have prospered.

Nigel Pont, regional director for the Middle East at Mercy Corps, said the divided Security Council had failed to apply sufficient political pressure to resolve the Syrian crisis.

“The first and most important [priority] is pushing for a political solution and really pushing hard on that front. It feels like it continues to not get traction – so that for me is the big failure,” he said. “Then in the absence of that, all you have is the humanitarian [work].”

“It doesn’t feel like the UN has scaled up its cross border assistance as much as it could have done…while the Security Council put the mandate, it doesn’t seem that within the operational agencies there were strong enough marching orders given to really push on the cross border.”

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also urged the Security Council to work together to stop the bloodshed.

“The Secretary-General has repeatedly pushed for the international community to do more to resolve the fighting in Syria and it is clear, after four years of conflict and bloodshed, that not enough is being done,” he said.

However, citing the unified position of the Security Council on dismantling Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, he said that significant accomplishments had been achieved. "[The Security Council] now must do the same to ensure that the suffering stops for once and for all."

jd/am