Syria: a stain on the conscience of the world

Ignored Security Council resolutions, escalating conflict and political inertia: Syria’s suffering civilians deserve better

Enormous numbers have had to flee violence in Syria. People of all political persuasion, ages, religious belief and background. Their views are diverse, and strongly held. One which is commonly expressed, however, is a disappointment with the ineffectiveness of the international community. A new report by Oxfam and 20 aid and human rights organizations shows there is good reason for this disillusionment.

In the face of a spiralling human catastrophe, in February 2014 the UN Security Council eventually united to pass Resolution 2139 that demanded an end to attacks on civilians and for Syrians to be able to access sufficient aid. The resolution, followed by two others later in the year, offered hope to Syrians. Our report shows that they have been largely ignored.

In the last year, the humanitarian situation has continued to worsen and the conflict has escalated.

Syria crisis: humanitarian agencies struggling to reach people in need

Samah, who fled to find safety for her six children in the caves of surrounding mountains explained: “We are dying from cold, illness and hunger. I would rather be cooking rocks at my home than staying here waiting for an organization to bring me a food basket every once in a while,” said Samah.  

More and more people have stories like Samah. Yet, 2014 also saw a drop in aid funding whilst rich countries pledged to resettle just a paltry number of refugees.

The political track to tackle this crisis has also stalled. As Lakhdar Brahimi, the second UN Peace Envoy to Syria to resign, said: there are “plans of war... no peace plans. I don’t see anybody saying “let’s stop fighting and let’s talk””. His replacement, Staffan de Mistura, has an unenviable task, trying to push reluctant parties to freeze the fighting in the city of Aleppo.

So what should be done?

Security Council members can clearly do more, particularly as the main backers of some of those fighting. They can use their diplomatic, political and financial influence to push for peace talks. They can insist that their demand for an end to violations is heeded, they can stop sending guns, bullets and military support to violators themselves, and they can insist on accountability and justice for the victims.

Neighboring countries and regional powers can also deescalate the conflict and implement practical changes to ease the plight of civilians. All governments can demand political action, offer a safe haven to 5 percent of refugees who have fled the violence and fully fund the humanitarian response.

And we, as global citizens, campaigners, any people with conscience or humanity, must stand #WithSyria. We can show solidarity with those who are both suffering and striving for a better future, and insist to governments that something has to change.

We must all stand #WithSyria.

This entry posted by Daniel Gorevan (@DGorevan), Oxfam policy advisor on the Syria Crisis and one of the authors of the report “Failing Syria”, on 25 March 2014.

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