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Remarks by Ambassador Quinlan in Consultations: Humanitarian access in Syria

Thematic issues

  • Humanitarian
  • Syria

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Thank you Under-Secretary-General Amos for your briefing.

What we as a Council now face is very simple: we all understand that we face the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st Century.

And we know what needs to be done – we all agreed on this in resolution 2139. That was a comprehensive and good resolution. Now we need to make sure it is enforced.

We asked the Secretary General to assess compliance with what we demanded in 2139 and that is happening every month

  • the reports we review are from the Secretary-General; they have his personal
    endorsement;
  • the Secretary General is above reproach; more than just our moral conscience,
    he is the officer the Council entrusts and mandates to report on the implementation
    of all the Council's resolutions.

We now have four reports since February – and each one is worse than the one before.

The Secretary General has assessed consistently that there is no compliance with 2139 – and has asked us to take action, as we said we would do in resolution 2139.

  • indeed, we know that the situation is far worse than simple non-compliance;
    there is a calculated policy by Damascus of arbitrary denial of desperately
    needed humanitarian relief;

In these circumstances we are failing in every responsibility of the Council by not acting – by not taking the measures we committed to doing.

I won't rehearse all the arguments about why we should act; we all know these; we've discussed them every month and essentially we all agree – that's why we were able to agree on resolution 2139 unanimously.

But I will highlight just a few figures to show that the humanitarian situation has gotten much worse since the adoption of 2139 in February and even in the last month.

There are now 10.8 million people in need – half the pre-crisis population of Syria – an increase of 1.5 million (or 17%)

  • and almost half of those people (4.7 million) are in hard-to-reach areas
    – an increase of 1.1 million since 2139;
  • and nearly 3 million refugees – an increase of nearly 400 000 since 2139.

There is also now less access to these people in need.

  • Under-Secretary-General Amos has just told us only one per cent of people
    in besieged areas are being reached.
  • WFP's food deliveries are regularly quoted by some colleagues as proof
    that aid is getting through. But the figures show that WFP's program to deliver
    food to 4.25 million is actually being thwarted; only 12 per cent of the people
    in WFP's food plan were reached (by 9 June) – compared to 26 per cent at the
    same time in April
  • humanitarian assistance is now only reaching 12.6 % (33 locations) of the
    262 identified as hard to reach or besieged;
  • and there has been no new cross-border access since the one opening Damascus
    allowed in March.

In terms of medical assistance, we know that the Syrian Government has made the decision to prohibit delivery of specific life-saving supplies as a matter of policy

  • and critical medical supplies are routinely removed from WHO convoys.

I want to emphasise that the fundamental challenge we face is not simply access to people but also ensuring the actual distribution of assistance, including to all areas in Syria and not just government-controlled areas. We know that Damascus is manipulating aid to ensure almost all of it (maybe 90%) goes to its own areas.

The Secretary General has now reported that the new arrangements that Damascus has established over the past two months have resulted in successive and significant drops in aid delivery.

These new procedures have reduced access overall, particularly in health deliveries

  • and now in the last few weeks, the Syrian authorities have imposed a new
    system of approvals for aid distribution centralising control in Damascus,
    with new bureaucratic requirements for three levels of approval, the MFA,
    the Security Ministry, and the High Relief Committee.

What little flexibility there was for the UN to determine needs at local level
with the Governors and deliver aid on that basis has been removed.

As we know, the Council has been looking at how we can encourage more local ceasefires and humanitarian pauses to allow humanitarian access

  • but these new procedures will actually prevent the humanitarian agencies
    from taking advantage of localised ceasefires to access those in hard to reach
    location.

As both Ambassador Lucas (Luxembourg) and Prince Zeid (Jordan) have just said, we three co-authors have been working hard to see if agreement can be reached on arrangements to enable the delivery of humanitarian goods across borders

  • the challenge is not just about access, but also about effective distribution
    of aid inside Syria, including across conflict lines on the basis
    of need
    .

We have also been working intensively with OCHA over recent weeks to ensure any proposals we bring forward to the Council are workable

  • we have taken so long because we need to get this right and get progress
    on the ground;
  • and ensure we don't actually go backwards.

Regrettably, we have continued to see evidence of the Syrian authorities' determination to continue its manipulation of aid distribution as part of its military strategy

  • the new conditionality on aid distribution imposed by the Syrian government
    is evidence of this;
  • its letter to the Council last Thursday (19 June) directly rebutted everything
    we've been trying to do to improve access.

We want to draw a line on this quickly.

Therefore, we will circulate a very practical draft resolution to all Council members very shortly – this week if possible.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015
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