Aid organizations issue failing grade to UN Security Council efforts in Syria | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 12.03.2015
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Middle East

Aid organizations issue failing grade to UN Security Council efforts in Syria

Four years since the start of the Syrian civil war, a group of aid organizations has called on the United Nations to commit itself to ending the conflict. Despite UN resolutions, the situation continues to worsen.

A report released Thursday detailed the appalling humanitarian crisis in Syria four years after the start of the country's civil war, which to date has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced half of the country's 23 million population.

It is a damning study, compiled by 21 various NGOs, and condemns the insufficient distribution of relief aid to those who most need it in and around Syria.

The report, findings of which will be printed in italic lettering throughout this article, accuses the UN Security Council of failing to implement the three resolutions adopted to help the humanitarian crisis, thus effectively failing to mitigate the situation. In 2014, Resolution 2139 was adopted and "brought with it much needed hope for the people in Syria." But in that year alone, at least 76,000 people were killed.

Humanitarian catastrophe

Despite the adoption of Presidential Statement 2013/15, Resolutions 2139 (2014) and 2165 (2014), the protection situation has worsened. Reportedly, over 1,000 civilian deaths have occurred in August (2014), the deadliest [month] since the start of the war. Civilians live in appalling conditions.

Robert Lindner, policy adviser for humanitarian campaigns of Oxfam Germany explains: "In Syria, the war just keeps going. More and more people are getting caught between the fronts and don't have adequate access to humanitarian help." And over 11 million people - around half of the country's population - are dependent upon aid. "At the end of the year 2013, three-fourths of the population was living in poverty and 200,000 people are facing starvation as they have inadequate access to food and drinking water," Lindner explained.

Screenshot Facebook-Seite How many more

A new Facebook page has been created to document the casualties of the Syrian crisis

Around 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 3.7 have fled the country. "In neighboring countries, there are increasing tensions between the local populations and the refugees over access to employment, medical care and education," Lindner pointed out. "It is no wonder that countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are having such difficulty accepting so many refugees, the number of which is expected to grow even further." In Europe, Germany has received the highest number of Syrian refugees, "but it should be much, much more," Lindner said.

For the people who remain in the country, the situation is harrowing:

The number of people living in areas that are difficult or impossible for aid agencies to reach has almost doubled from 2.5 million in 2013 to 4.8 million at the start of 2015.

This is partially because, as the report explains, "the government of Syria continues to hamper with the work of aid agencies," regularly preventing "international humanitarian workers from travelling" within the country.

Of 34 border crossings, only around 5 are currently open, meaning aid simply cannot get through. Unlike weapons. "So many weapons continue to flood into the country, that all parties involved in the conflict can engage in warfare," said Ekkehard Forberg, peace building expert and advocacy manager for World Vision.

Another point, the report points out, is that the Syria crisis "remains severely and chronically underfunded." According to the paper, the "international aid community will need $8.4bn to respond to the crisis - one of the largest-ever UN-led appeals."

Not a civil war; a political tug-of-war in three directions

One of the major problems plaguing Syrians is now the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group. Though it is just one of the many forces involved in the conflict, it has gained so much power in so little time, and across the border in Iraq as well, that it has turned the Syrian conflict into less of a civil war and more of an international one. Yet despite international efforts to force the group to its knees, it does not seem to be relinquishing power.

The report calls for an end to the fighting and for a political solution. However, IS "categorically rejects the idea of any political negotiations," Forberg said. So as long as that group has such strong influence in the region, "there is hardly any chance there can be a political solution."

Save the Children

The situation continues to deteriorate for children in Syria, with 1,200 gave violations committed against them in the first half of 2014 and a quarter of schools closed

With the Assad regime using barrel bombs on densely populated areas, killing scores of innocent civilians, and the Nusra Front and the terror of IS arbitrarily executing people at random, it is difficult to point fingers at any of the parties involved and say that any one is the worst or the cause of the conflict per se. The largest threat, though, that Syrians are facing now is "that the war will continue," according to Forberg.

Deliberate attacks, including the organized murder, rape, and torture of men, women and children continue to be committed by different sides in the conflict throughout Syria every day.

There is one solution, however. The major players in the UN Security Council, the US and Russia, can use their power to exert political influence. Seeing as how those two countries can't seem to come together at a table over the crisis in Ukraine - one that is closer to home, even - it seems unlikely that this alone is a viable solution.

Despite three different UN envoys and two rounds of UN-led peace talks, there has been no movement towards a political settlement of the conflict.

Regional players, Forberg suggested, would thus have to play a larger role. Three powers are exerting a fair amount of influence over the conflicts in Syria: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The problem, though, is that all three are supporting different powers and thus more or less seemingly pulling the country apart. "Iran is more in support of the Syrian regime, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting different Islamist groups."

"If all three came together to find a solution, there would be a much greater chance of finding a political solution for Syria," according to Forberg.

The situation is in dire need of new political impulses. Because in the end, a political process is the only thing that will be able to assuage this gargantuan crisis.

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