Statement at the UNSC Briefing on Syria - Political & Humanitarian
Statement21 December 2022
Thank you, Madam President,
I deliver this statement on behalf of Norway and Ireland, as co-penholders on the Syria Humanitarian file, and I thank Geir and Martin, for your briefing today.
I also thank the Secretary General, and you and your team, Martin, for the two reports we have been supplied with on the situation in Syria.
That situation could not be clearer. Syrians continue to suffer. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen. And aid, through all modalities, continues to be indispensable for millions of people across the country.
An estimated fifteen point three million people in 2023 will require humanitarian protection and assistance.
That is yet another significant increase, up from fourteen point six million in 2022. The highest numbers in need since the beginning of the conflict.
Syrians are having to work harder than ever before just to survive. Humanitarian suffering as a result of protracted conflict has been exacerbated by food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, a dire economic situation, a water crisis, and cholera.
Astoundingly, from the first of January to the thirtieth of September of this year, four-hundred and fifty civilians, including one hundred and twenty-three children, were killed as a result of hostilities and violence in Syria. One hundred and twenty-three children, who should be safe and well, learning and growing and flourishing.
Civilians are not a target. We echo the Secretary General’s call upon all parties to take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout their military operations, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Food insecurity has reached record highs. Children in particular are suffering. Cases of severe acute malnutrition rates have doubled since last year. Many children are stunted and at risk of irreversible damage to their health. Families are unable to afford food, as the income gap soars. Parents are going without as they try to keep their children from starving.
In this context, early recovery assistance is vital. From the provision of seeds and installation of streetlights to the rehabilitation of bakeries, schools and irrigation networks for agriculture, early recovery support is changing lives in every governorate of Syria.
Between January and September, an estimated ten point eight million Syrians have been reached directly and indirectly by projects aimed at increasing resilience. We welcome this progress, underpinned by resolution 2642. It must continue.
When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need across Syria, all channels of access should be consistently available.
Cross-line convoys of aid to north-west Syria continue to increase in frequency and size, and we encourage continued efforts in this regard.
Despite notable progress on cross line deliveries, they remain at this time unable to substitute the scope or size of the massive UN cross-border operation. The highly monitored cross-border mechanism continues to be an indispensable lifeline, as Geir said. An indispensable lifeline providing food, shelter, WASH, protection, vaccines, and critical medical services to millions of Syrians in need.
The impact of years of conflict, instability, recurring displacements, poor living conditions and ongoing economic struggles is clear. The rise in suicide ideation and suicides is grim evidence of an encroaching mental health crisis. Conflict, hunger, and cold are stealing the lives of civilians.
But so too is hopelessness caused by the burden of the ongoing conflict, and the resulting extreme hardship. It is within our power, in this room, to address at least some of that lack of hope by ensuring that aid continues to reach those in need.
Let me repeat. Fifteen point three million people in 2023 will require humanitarian assistance in Syria. Colleagues, I know we often hear staggering numbers in this room. But we must remember that they are much more than numbers.
These are vulnerable people, including elderly and children, who need food, water, warmth. They need safe, dignified shelter. They need help and they need this Council to act. We must continue to use all modalities, all modalities to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need.
To echo the Secretary General, the continuation of the cross-border mechanism, which remains a lifeline for millions of people, by the Security Council is critical. It is a moral and humanitarian imperative and we cannot abandon these people at a time of acute need.
Madam President, I will now address the political situation on behalf of Ireland.
Ireland is seriously concerned about the continuing hostilities on the ground in Syria, particularly given the worrying escalation in the north in recent weeks.
Information received by the OHCHR that some of these attacks do not appear to be aimed at specific military targets, while hitting residential areas and densely populated IDP camps, is deeply concerning.
Indiscriminate attacks are unacceptable, and prohibited under international humanitarian law. All parties to the conflict are obliged to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Those who violate international humanitarian law must be held accountable.
We call on parties to exercise maximum restraint, and reiterate the need for a nationwide ceasefire in line with Resolution 2254.
The Secretary General’s Report highlighted the dire security situation for those living in Al-Hol camp. Forty-two people were reportedly murdered at the camp in 2022, including 22 women and 4 children. Impunity for killings, rapes and other acts of violence remains rampant, while people are living in overcrowded and miserable conditions.
Ireland echoes the call of the Secretary General for local authorities in control of these camps to abide by their obligations under international law. We urges the international community to take action to ease the suffering of those in Al-Hol and other IDP camps. We are concerned by reports that internally-displaced women and adolescent girls lack access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services.
Ireland remains very concerned by the plight of those detained and missing in Syria, with tens of thousands of families left without any knowledge of their loved ones.
Ireland calls on the Syrian Government and non-State groups to account for the fate and whereabouts of those detained, and allow human rights agencies access to places of detention.
Madam President, I would like to conclude my statement by thanking Special Envoy Pedersen for his tireless efforts to advance the Syrian political process throughout Ireland’s term on this Council.
We reiterate our support for Geir’s important work on step-for-step building measures, and efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. Any new Constitution and related political process must include the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.
After years of conflict, the Syrian people deserve progress towards stability and security. This can only be achieved through dialogue and agreement on a lasting political solution.
Thank you, Madam President.