Statement by the co-penholders for the Syria humanitarian file – Germany and Belgium – in the Security Council meeting on Syria (humanitarian), August 27, 2020

27.08.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Mr. President,

I will make this statement on behalf of Belgium and Germany, the humanitarian co-penholders. We would like to thank Assistant Secretary General Ramesh Rajasingham for his briefing.

Mr. President,

Last month civil society briefer Amany Qaddour asked us, asked the Council “to share the risk humanitarian aid workers are exposed to – the risk of displacement, violence, insecurity and I may add: infectious diseases- and not to simply pass it down to those who already absorbed so much and in many cases sacrificed their lives in the process ”.

One week ago we remembered these victims on World Humanitarian Day. Syria sadly is on top of the list of the deadliest places for humanitarian workers.

We bow our head to those who gave their lives fulfilling humanitarian duties – but do we follow Ms. Qaddour´s  recommendation ? Do we live up to humanitarian expectations, e.g. delivering aid on the most direct routes?

In his last bimonthly report the Secretary General has given a first assessment of the consequences of the closure of Bab Al Salam. I quote: “The first cross border delivery dispatched to Northern Aleppo via Bab Al-Hawa under the new resolution experienced foreseen challenges, resulting in a more costly, higher risk, less timely and, ultimately less effective humanitarian response.” And this first convoy, 7 trucks only, did neither experience the impact of combat activities nor harsh winter conditions on poor roads.  And  warehouses are still full because enough inventory was stocked beforehand. But this will change, the numbers of trucks will have to increase significantly and challenges and risks will further grow. The number of Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance and protection is growing.

Mr President,

Years of war, mismanagement, oppression, now exacerbated by the economic crisis in neighboring Lebanon, have aggravated the economic crisis in Syria.

This has led to an additional 1.4 million people becoming food insecure over the last six months while the most recent and last projections estimate that another 2 million are at risk to become food insecure: the total number could exceed 11 million soon.

Furthermore, the spread of COVID 19 across the country is increasing exponentially. Testing capacities remain very low, so most cases may go unnoticed. Numbers we hear may only represent the tip of the iceberg. The destruction of health facilities and the shortage of health workers dramatically imperil any response.

Mr. President,

All this indicates that not less but more humanitarian access is needed, today and tomorrow. The countries that lobbied against crossborder access have to engage actively to improve crossline access. Consistent access, safe and unimpeded, is urgently needed – and not only a spectacular one time delivery on costly and time consuming routes (Erbil – Damascus – Qamishli). What is needed is distribution to all people and health care facilities – and not the regime deciding who is “worthy of receiving aid” and who is not.

End of August 2020 we have to acknowledge that crossline assistance to the Northwest is still not working and that many health stations in the Northeast are still lacking most basic goods.

As humanitarian Penholders we stress again:

The closing of Yarubiah in January and the closing of Bab-al-Salam last month contradict humanitarian logic. We have pushed as much as we could to find a solution guided  by the humanitarian imperative and to keep those crossings open. The burden of responsibility lies on those countries that have systematically limited humanitarian access through the cross-border modality. We hope they carefully listen to the consequences just described by OCHA. We hope they will also try to contribute to diminishing the humanitarian impact of having closed those crossings.

The Alouk water station is another example of how humanitarian arguments are defied. Ramesh just explained the latest problems. There is simply no excuse for denying access to water to millions of men, women and children. Doing this during the hot summer months and in the middle of a pandemic is even more inhumane. We ask all parties who bear responsibility to find a sustainable solution and to guarantee constant supply of water for the region.

Mr. President,

Protection issues sadly persist. Not only for those in arbitrary detention, or those who are still missing. Also, for those who have become victims of air or ground offensives. Numbers have significantly increased over the last months. We call on all parties to maximize restraint and consider the humanitarian repercussions of military actions. We condemn the recent attacks of terrorist groups. Let me again underline that any response should comply with obligations under international law, including  international humanitarian law.

Finally, Mr. President,

Only a political settlement in line with resolution 2254 can put Syria back on track towards peace. So it is very good news this morning, that the talks in Geneva could be resumed. 

I thank you.

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