(New York) – A coalition of 18 international humanitarian, human rights and peace groups welcome the unanimous UN Security Council resolution demanding safe and unhindered humanitarian access – including across conflict lines and across borders – to people in need throughout Syria.
The February 22, 2014 action by the Security Council is an important step towards getting desperately needed aid to millions of Syrians, including a quarter of a million who are trapped in besieged communities. However, this resolution will only be meaningful if it results in real, substantial changes on the ground in Syria. We have been in a similar situation before. Last October, the Security Council issued a strong statement urging all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need. At that time, approximately 6.8 million Syrians were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Now that number is 9.3 million, half of whom are children. After more than four months and a significant amount of diplomatic effort, the results on the ground have been meager and the overall humanitarian situation has deteriorated.
The people of Syria cannot afford a recurrence of that disappointment. They cannot afford for this resolution to be disregarded. The UN Security Council has displayed unprecedented unity on this issue. Council members must now show the same unity in ensuring the full and swift implementation of their demands.
Getting aid to all those in need in Syria in the midst of an ongoing conflict is a complex and dangerous challenge. But the test of whether this resolution is being implemented is fairly simple, and requires real progress by all parties, in the next 30 days, on five central points at a minimum:
1. Lifting of sieges on populated areas and ensuring all people in besieged communities have safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid;
2. Opening of border crossings from neighboring countries for deliveries of life-saving aid by both the UN and nongovernmental organizations;
3. Stream-lined procedures for approving humanitarian aid convoys and prompt approval of requests for convoys to travel to hard-to-reach areas;
4. Cessation of attacks on schools and hospitals and the demilitarization of these facilities, as well as the facilitation of free passage for all medical personnel and equipment;
5. Cessation of indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and any methods of warfare that do not respect the obligation under international humanitarian law to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants.
The Security Council’s resolution is a diplomatic breakthrough; it is not yet a humanitarian breakthrough. This will require the swift translation of the council’s strong, shared words into meaningful action. For the sake of more than 9 million suffering Syrians, we call on all parties to act immediately on the Security Council’s demands and we call on Security Council members to be firm in ensuring the rapid implementation of the resolution.
The coalition members are Center for Victims of Torture, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Christian Aid, Conectas Human Rights, Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Médecins du Monde, Norwegian Refugee Council, PAX, Pax Christi International, People in Need, Save the Children, Solidarités International, Syrian American Medical Society, Tearfund, and World Vision International.