Lives lost in Syria

Keith McManus

Blog post by Keith McManus

Oxfam Ireland, Digital Communications Manager
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Written by Camilla Jelbart Mosse, Oxfam's Humanitarian Campaign Manager

As G8 leaders meet on Syria, the stakes couldn’t be higher for those caught in the crossfire.

“My family lost our home and many loved ones. We’d go for days without being able to raise our heads to buy water and bread as it wasn’t safe, so we had to leave Syria. We just want to go home.”

It is with the voices of refugees I’ve recently met in Jordan ringing in my ears that I’ve come to demand action on Syria from the G8 leaders gathering in Northern Ireland today.

The Syria crisis has shot right to the top of the G8 agenda. A staggering 93,000 people have already been killed and more than 8 million men, women and children are in need of aid – both inside Syria and living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Oxfam greeted the arrival of the G8 leaders this morning with a visual display of gravestones and white roses to commemorate the lives lost so far in the conflict.

As G8 leaders take to their dinner table to discuss the situation tonight, the stakes couldn’t be higher for people caught in the crossfire.

We need to see leaders working to ensure that life-saving aid reaches those who need it most.  G8 leaders must throw their collective weight behind a political solution to the crisis - and not send more weapons into the conflict which would only add fuel to the fire.

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The US and Russia’s announcement of proposed peace talks back in May provided a small glimmer of hope on the diplomatic horizon; but we have seen delays and deep divisions within the international community, as public debate ahead of the G8 has shifted to focus on military options which could pose huge risks to civilians.  

Speaking to members of the press corp that have flown into Northern Ireland to cover this summit, many journalists have asked “do you think the G8 leaders can overcome their differences to achieve anything concrete?” The answer on Syria – while far from simple – is clear: they have to.

We desperately need to see a display of unity and a concrete plan from Putin and Obama on how they are going to make the Geneva peace talks a reality, with the full vocal support of the other leaders.

Without significant steps forward, the consequences for regional instability and the people caught up in the escalating humanitarian crisis could be catastrophic.  

Voices of Syrians

Watching the news over the last few days, it’s obvious that the voices and views of Syrian people have been lost amid the big picture politics that is playing out between states.

It is not for G8 leaders – or Oxfam, for that matter – to determine what the future of Syria should look like; but leaders must do everything they can to ensure that a robust process is put in place that will eventually allow ordinary people to make democratic decisions.

There is of course a long way to go, but a clear first step must involve inclusive negotiations which ensure participation from all sides to the conflict as well as representation of non-military civil society voices including refugees and women’s groups.

As the G8 leaders choose which diplomatic levers to pull, I can only hope that they take us one step closer to a solution which allows the refugees with whom Oxfam is working in Jordan and Lebanon to finally go home.

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