Check against delivery
I deliver this statement on behalf of the three co-penholders: Kuwait, Germany and Belgium. I would like to thank Under Secretary-General Lowcock for his valuable and well-timed briefing.
Under Secretary-General Lowcock reminded us, once again, that millions of Syrians continue to be in need of humanitarian help and protection.
USG Lowcock also reminded us that 11 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance. Around 5 million children still require some form of humanitarian assistance, including nearly half a million in hard-to-reach areas. These are essential and critical needs: we’re talking about food, water, shelter, medical assistance for the sick, medical care to prevent people from getting sick, and education for Syrian children.
As those needs are essential and critical, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners should be allowed to continue to carry out their work in order to deliver humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian Access, including cross-line access, across Syria, should be allowed for in a timely, safe, sustained and unimpeded manner.
As of last month, one third of people in need of humanitarian assistance, 4 million people depend on cross border operations, in other words almost 40% of the entire humanitarian assistance is covered through this mechanism.
Since the UN began cross border operations in July 2014, due to resolution 2165, it has offered a true lifeline to those people in areas that are not under the control of the Authorities. The UN and it’s implementing partners have been able to ensure, through this mechanism, life-saving assistance that reaches millions of people. This year has been extremely busy: never have there been as many humanitarian cross-border convoys as during the month of October 2019, as a result of the situation on the ground in the North of the country.
The monitoring mechanism that is linked to cross-border operations is a robust and reliable one. It is known to be amongst the most effective and detail-oriented systems of all OCHA humanitarian operations across the world.
The current mandate of cross-border operations ends by the beginning of next year. The renewal of this mandate is of primary importance. According to the Secretary-General “Without this operation, we would see increased death, disease and immense suffering of a population that cannot be reached at this scale, in such a timely and direct manner, through any other means.” We share this assessment. This is why the co-penholders of the humanitarian situation in Syria will work closely with all members of this Council, and countries concerned and involved, in order to renew the cross-border operations resolution, a purely humanitarian resolution, before the end of this year.
In North-East Syria, clashes continue to be reported. This has added further risk to the already dire humanitarian situation. It has led to civilian casualties, and – although the number has dropped – many people remain displaced. It is of primary importance that humanitarian access is not impeded. At this stage our particular attention goes out to the Allouk water station, and we call on all parties to fully ensure the functioning of this station which provides water to almost half a million people in Al Hassakeh. In Al-Hol camp, 68 000 residents remain, 94% of whom are women and children. We call for continued and full humanitarian access to the camp and for the specific protection needs there to be addressed.
In the North-West, despite a reduction of hostilities since the end of August, a recent upsurge of violence has been reported which has led to civilian casualties, especially in southern and western Idlib, further impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Once again, we’re deeply concerned about recent reports of attacks on medical facilities. We have also condemned the attacks perpetrated by Security Council designated terrorist groups, while reiterating that counter terrorism efforts can never absolve the obligations of all parties under International Humanitarian Law, including the principles of distinction and proportionality. More than half the current population in Idlib are IDPs of which many remain displaced close to the Turkish border, in dire humanitarian circumstances, with overcrowded camps as the winter sets in.
Mr. President, we remain equally concerned by the situation in the south west, including around Damascus, where a total of 2.8 million people remain in severe humanitarian need of essential protection, water and sanitation, health, food, education and other relief. The security situation, which remains volatile in this region, adds to the challenge. The situation in Rukban remains dire. We continue to call for a durable and lasting solution there, and we welcome the UN mission that is about to take place, in this regard as well as the fact that the UN was able to visit the welcoming centers in Homs.
Finally, Mr. President, four more points:
No lasting peace in Syria is possible without justice and accountability. We reiterate our support for the IIIM as well as the Board of Inquiry recently established by the Secretary-General and which is operational. With regards to the return of refugees, our position remains unchanged: all returns must be safe, voluntary, dignified and well-informed.
We reiterate our call for a nation-wide cessation of hostilities in accordance with Security Council resolutions, including 2401. There is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.
We welcome the convening of the Constitutional Committee, as a first step in the political process, and we reiterate our support to Special Envoy Pedersen in his efforts to reach a political solution in Syria on the basis of resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique of 2012.