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

27.10.2020 - Speech

Delivered by Belgium

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, Mr. President,

I will make this statement on behalf of Belgium and Germany, the humanitarian co-penholders. We want to thank Under-Secretary General Lowcock and Special Envoy Pedersen for their briefings today.

And we extend our gratitude to all humanitarian and medical workers in Syria. They are at the forefront of every humanitarian disaster, they are frontline fighters against the pandemic and they deserve all our respect, assistance and protection.

Mr. President,

In his latest report about the humanitarian situation in Syria the Secretary General stated, that he was alarmed over the daily impact of attacks harming civilians including humanitarian workers. The military conflict continues, yesterday´s airstrike in Idlib took place in close vicinity to an IDP camp, and we simply cannot accept, that this continues to happen on an almost daily basis.

Victims of attacks included humanitarian workers e.g. from the “Red Crescent” and “Syria Relief and Development”, whose representative Amany Qaddour asked this Council in July to “to share the risk humanitarian aid workers are exposed to”. Therefore, we must lend our full support to the Secretary General´s appeal for a nationwide ceasefire.

The Secretary General has also reminded us that there can be no business as usual in Syria as long as impunity for serious violations of international law and abuses of human rights persists. We agree with the Secretary General: Accountability for these violations and abuses is both a legal requirement and central to achieving sustainable peace in Syria.

Let me quote a conclusion of a recent report: “It is crucial to demonstrate that there are consequences for unlawful attacks to deter future atrocities and to show that no one can elude accountability for graves crimes”.

Regarding access issues, Mark just told us, that he is concerned about winterization. Even if the capacity of the only remaining humanitarian border crossing of Bab al Hawa has been enlarged, travel on the roads in North West Syria remains difficult. During the weeks to come, more trucks will use these roads and conditions will deteriorate further.

As humanitarian co-penholders we simply do not understand and are not willing to accept the logic behind the closure of Bab Al Salam, the logic behind limiting access for humanitarian aid, the logic behind putting humanitarian workers at additional risk. This logic is an insult to hundreds of thousands of children dependent on our help.

Meanwhile the shortfalls in the North East, particularly in the delivery of healthcare, continue to exist. Many health facilities simply do not receive what they need, and cannot provide the same assistance to patients they could when the border crossing of Yarubiah was still in use for the delivery of urgently  needed medical supplies. The pandemic only serves to make things worse. 

Mr President,

Years of war and chronic mismanagement of the economy, exacerbated by the pandemic and the devaluation of the Syrian Pound, have led to significant food insecurity. Acute and chronic malnutrition – children are the most vulnerable victims - will become more widespread. WFP – rightfully this year´s Peace Nobel Prize Winner- and other humanitarian agencies are already asking for more funding in order not to be forced to cut food rations. Food assistance has reached 5,4 million on average each month - and the number is on the rise again. 

Access to water is another problem. In previous sessions we mentioned the problems around the Alouk water station and urged all parties to cooperate for an urgent and sustainable solution. Other areas like Al Bab in Northern Aleppo are likewise affected. 185.000 people are suffering from water shortages and have to rely on insufficient and unsafe sources. The high number of COVID 19 cases in the region can be linked directly to the insufficient access to sanitation.    

Given that testing capacities for COVID 19 remains very low, it is safe to assume that the official numbers represent but 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 attention to the humanitarian situation in Syria is needed by this council. As co-penholders we deplore that attention is limited by combining the political and the humanitarian session like today.  And we reject attempts to convey the impression that the situation on the ground is somehow normalizing. Fact and numbers we have just heard are testament to the contrary.

And finally, Mr. President,

Only a political settlement in line with resolution 2254 can put Syria back on track towards peace.

I thank you.

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