Head of Advocacy & Public Relations for Syria Relief
On Friday (10th January 2020) the UN Security Council narrowly avoided a deadline which could have resulted in the halting of cross-border aid and a potential humanitarian catastrophe. However, whilst a solution was reached, it is far from ideal. In fact, for people in North East Syria, it could be catastrophic. Let me explain…
Resolution 2165 was adopted in July 2014, it established the cross-border aid delivery mechanism. 2165 had its mandate renewed in December 2018 with resolution 2449. However, this mandate was due to come to an end on January 10th.
The original resolution authorised four border crossings for aid, Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian border with Turkey, al-Yarubiyah on the Syrian border with Iraq, and al-Ramtha on the Syrian border with Jordan. It was the future status of these crossings which provided the area of contention.
Prior to Friday there was two competing resolutions, one produced by Belgium and Germany, which wanted to reauthorise the two Syria/Turkey crossings and the Syria/Iraq crossing, closing the Syria/Jordan crossing for aid, and another resolution produced by Russia which wanted to only reauthorized the two Syria/Turkey crossings and closing both the Syria/Iraq and Syria/Jordan crossings for aid.
Generally speaking, the NGO community was more supportive of the Belgium and Germany resolution of the two options, as it meant better access to the people in need in the North East as well as the North West of Syria.
Unfortunately, the decision was made to renew only the two Syria/Turkey crossings for a period of 6 months. Effectively stopping the border crossings with Iraq and Jordan to deliver aid.
This, in our eyes, is a miserable compromise, and represents the scaling back of humanitarian assistance to people in desperate need of that very aid. The timing is completely wrong too, over the past month the spiralling conflict in Idlib, compounded by severe winter weather, has caused more than 300,000 people to flee their homes.
This decision will make it harder for NGOs to access the 1.6 million people in North East Syria who are reliant on humanitarian assistance.
Another concern is the length of the renewal – previously, the periods have been for a year upwards, however if the precedent is now set to renew in only 6 month chunks, or less, then this will mean the suffering of the Syrian people will be compounded by greater uncertainty and short-termism. The last thing the Syrian people need is less stability.
However, we must focus on the work in hand, we still have 50% of the border crossings authorised and NGOs like Syria Relief are still able to deliver aid, even if we have been severely hindered by the decision. The international community’s focus in the immediate future should be helping the people who are in immediate danger in the escalating humanitarian crisis in Idlib and the people who have been flooded out of their tents they are forced to live in, due to the unforgiving winter climate.
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