Statement by Ambassador Kelly at the UNSC Briefing on Syria - Humanitarian and Political
Statement27 October 2021
Thank you Mr. President,
I make this statement today on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Norway and Ireland. Thanks to Under-Secretary General Martin Griffiths for your briefing. Martin, you have set before us in stark terms the enormity of the humanitarian needs facing the people of Syria. A grim reality which Ms. Menerva Al Barouki has given vivid expression to in her briefing today, and we thank you for that briefing.
I must begin by deploring the recent uptick in hostilities in Syria, in particular in the North West, which have resulted in over one hundred civilian deaths since June. This flagrant disregard for the lives of Syrians is frankly unacceptable. We urge all parties to the conflict to fully respect and implement their international humanitarian law obligations, including by ensuring the protection of civilians. We also call on all States with direct influence over parties to the conflict to take any possible proactive steps that may lead to increased protection of the civilian population in Syria.
Syrians are facing into yet another bitter winter. With resilience levels at record lows after ten years of conflict, Syrians are now worse off than at any time since the conflict began.
In the North West, many of the 2.8 million displaced persons find themselves living in overcrowded flimsy tents, in valleys that flood, or on rocky hillsides exposed to harsh weather. Recent winters in Syria have seen many killed or injured as fires have ripped through crowded camps, storms have wreaked havoc, and flooding has washed away thousands of tents and destroyed temporary homes.
The onset of these harsh winter conditions is coinciding with rising fuel prices and food scarcity. Tragically, lives will once again be lost this winter, and we recognise the disproportionate impact that these severe conditions, and the ongoing conflict and violence, have on both women and children. The extreme fragility of the situation underlines the imperative of ensuring that help can reach those most in need, through the continued provision of humanitarian access and adequate funding for the winterisation response.
Furthermore, we must not lose sight of the need for a broader humanitarian response, including water, sanitation, health, education and shelter early recovery projects, geared towards providing for the immediate needs of Syrians.
The harsh winter conditions will create fresh operational difficulties for the complex humanitarian access landscape in Syria. We note the increase this year in cross-line access to the North East. We welcome the news of a potential inter-agency cross-line convoy to the North West, which will build upon the first WFP cross-line mission which took place in August. We also welcome the continued efforts at the large cross border operation at Bab al Hawa. Thanks to the principled decision of this Council in July, this cross border operation is continuing to provide a lifeline to 3.4 million people in need who are now facing another winter against the backdrop of an intensification of hostilities, a deepening economic crisis, an unprecedented rise in COVID-19, and a severe funding crisis.
We are concerned about the deteriorating security situation at the Al Hol camp as reported by the Secretary General this month. The daily reality for these vulnerable people is a continuing struggle to access food, medical care, clean water, protection, and other basic services, not to mention their exposure to the spread of Covid. It is critical that security provided at this camp is done so in a manner that neither endangers residents nor restricts humanitarian access.
The past two months have seen a sharp increase in the number of COVID 19 infections in Syria. For instance in the North West, it has been described as an uncontrolled outbreak, with the positivity rate reported to have doubled in the last month, resulting in widespread illness and death. This has put enormous pressure on an already fragile health system, and adds to the urgency of protecting access to water and sanitation. All parties must facilitate humanitarian access and uphold ceasefires to enable medical humanitarian teams to undertake their vital functions, including safely delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to those who need it the most.
In closing I would like to underline our commitment to support the people of Syria in the face of this grave humanitarian crisis. As co-penholders, our approach continues to be informed by the words of the Secretary General who tells us that communities are determined to restart their lives, yet desperately need an end to the conflict, lifesaving aid, early recovery support and respect for fundamental human rights in order to do so. Our collective efforts on this Council must surely be dedicated to ensuring that Syrians who have suffered through this terrible conflict can live with dignity and hope for a better future.
I would now like to deliver some remarks in my national capacity on the political situation.
Many thanks Geir for your efforts to provide new momentum to the Constitutional Committee.
We share your disappointment with the lack of progress. Civil society briefer, Rouba Mhaissen, eloquently told us last month that in order for any political settlement to be successful, it must focus on building local resilience and supporting Syrians, especially the voice and agency of Syrian women.
Their meaningful participation in the political process is crucial to achieving sustainable peace after so many desperate years of conflict.
As set out in Resolution 2254, this new Constitution is an essential building block for a political solution and national reconciliation, which the Syrian people need and deserve. It is long past time for meaningful engagement and tangible progress on this vital task.
Tragically, the vision of a peaceful future remains elusive and the Syrian people continue to endure the horror of events such as last week’s lethal attacks in Damascus and Idlib, whose victims included three boys and one girl killed while on their way to school.
Ireland condemns these attacks, which underline the importance of a nationwide ceasefire across all of Syria
Earlier this month an event took place in the margins of the General Assembly on the plight of the disappeared in Syria. Family members spoke of the terrible circumstances in which their loved ones went missing. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that at least 149,000 people are still detained or missing. This is an appalling situation for these individuals and their families, left in limbo as they await news of their loved ones.
We call on the Syrian authorities and other parties to release detainees and abductees. And we thank you Geir for your work on this important issue.
Geir, we have listened with interest to your ideas on step-for-step approaches by the Syrian parties and international actors. Ireland looks forward to hearing more about what you have in mind and is willing to be helpful in whatever way we can. You have as always our full support in the vital work of seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict, in line with Resolution 2254.
Thank you, Mr. President.