Statement by the co-penholders for the Syria humanitarian file – Germany and Belgium – in the Security Council VTC Meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, June 29, 2020

29.06.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

I am delivering  this statement on behalf of the co-penholders Belgium and Germany. We would like to thank Under-Secretary General Lowcock for his briefing today. We also thank Susannah Sirkin for being with us today to shed light on the situation of health facilities and health workers in Syria.

The destruction of health facilities and the shortage of health workers is an overwhelming humanitarian challenge in normal times, in times of a pandemic it is highly likely to cause further disaster.

Thank you, “Physicians for Human Rights”, to keep asking for accountability. Thank you for continuing to hold warring parties to account. We should all work together to limit the impact of war on civilians and try to refine existing protection mechanisms like the humanitarian notification system.  It is important to underline that parties who withdraw from this mechanism continue to be bound by international humanitarian law.


As we just heard from Mark [Lowcock], the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues at an appalling scale. The demand for humanitarian assistance does not decrease. On the contrary, 9 years of war, the irresponsibility of the Syrian authorities, Covid 19 and its economic impact and the crisis in Lebanon cause more and more Syrians to sink into poverty. WFP recently stated that an additional 1,4 Mio. Syrians have become food insecure since the beginning of 2020.

Today and tomorrow international partners will meet for the “Brussels IV” conference and new pledges will be made to “support the future of Syria and the region”. Tomorrow donors will demonstrate that the world cares, that the people of Syria are not forgotten. Humanitarian Co-Penholders Germany and Belgium are important donors, and we will continue our efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

But it´s not only about funding, it´s also – perhaps mostly – about access. Humanitarian assistance is of little use if the people most in need cannot easily be reached. Colleagues, this is why Humanitarian Co-penholders ask for your cooperation in good faith, Security Council members must work together for a renewal of resolution 2504. The lives of millions of Syrians depend on cross-border assistance from Turkey and Iraq.

Mark [Lowcock], 6 weeks ago during the last meeting on Syria humanitarian in this virtual chamber, you asked Security Council members “for an early decision”, and  that  “this decision cannot be left to the last minute, too many lives are at stake.” Co-Penholders have started the process early in an inclusive and transparent manner. Moreover comparing the last bimonthly report of the Secretary General (published some days ago) with the previous ones, we see exactly the same recommendations:

  • Northwest: a renewal of 2504 for 12 months because a failure to renew would sever this lifeline for millions of civilians and because it´s simply impossible to replicate with cross-line assistance;
  • Northeast: A combination of more cross-border and cross-line is required to sustain levels of humanitarian assistance.

And we all know and Mark [Lowcock], as you explained very well, that a humanitarian operation like the one taking place through the border-crossings for Bab al Salaam and Bab Al Hawa in Northwest Syria requires weeks and often months of lead-time. Operations are on an all-time record level. By delaying the process, dear colleagues, we put the ability of humanitarian organizations to save lives, in danger.

At the beginning of these negotiations we promised each other to do better this time. Yes, the cross-border mechanism is meant to be temporary. Yes, cross-line aid is important and growing. But the reality on the ground is that cross-line aid is nowhere near the required level to meet the vast humanitarian needs. This means that the cross-border mechanism remains as relevant and necessary as ever, and will be so for the foreseeable future.  We must not allow ourselves to be misguided by political or military considerations.

Let´s concentrate instead on the essential – life saving humanitarian assistance.   


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