[Vredeslijst] Petition to UN: Deliver aid to ALL sides in Syria!

Jeff meisner op xs4all.nl
Wo Jun 15 16:52:22 CEST 2016

Sign the petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Taking sides: The United Nations’ loss of impartiality, independence and 
neutrality in Syria.



The United Nations (UN) in Syria is in serious breach of the 
humanitarian principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.

By choosing to prioritise cooperation with the Syrian government at all 
costs, the UN has enabled the distribution of billions of dollars of 
international aid to be directed by one side in the conflict. This has 
contributed to the deaths of thousands of civilians, either through 
starvation, malnutrition-related illness, or a lack of access to medical 
aid. It has also led to the accusation that this misshapen UN aid 
operation is affecting – perhaps prolonging – the course of the conflict 

This report documents a departure from humanitarian principles beginning 
with the UN’s failure to deliver aid to the government-besieged town of 
Daraa at the very start of the crisis in 2011. The government of Syria 
used the explicit threat of removing the UN’s permission to operate 
within Syria and withdrawing visas for its non-Syrian staff to keep 
humanitarians from delivering aid to Daraa. The Syrian government has 
used this threat consistently since then to manipulate where, how and to 
whom the UN has been able to deliver humanitarian aid.

Facing this attack on their humanitarian principles, UN agencies did not 
unite or set out red lines or conditions formeisner op xs4all.nl their 
cooperation with the Syrian government. Rather, they chose to accept the 
government’s constraints on their operation. As a result, a culture of 
compliance was born. UN agencies were unwilling to push hard for access 
to areas outside of government control. In the words of one recent 
evaluation by the UN itself, agencies were

“simply not willing to jeopardise their operations in Syria by taking a 
tougher stance with the government. The reasons for this are beyond the 
scope of this evaluation, but will surely be scrutinised unfavourably at 
a later point.”1

That point is now. This report scrutinises not only the UN’s reasons for 
failing to take a tougher stance with the government, but also the 
impact of this failure upon Syrian civilians and the conflict itself.

The UN has provided the Syrian government with an effective veto over 
aid deliveries to areas outside of government control, enabling its use 
of sieges as a weapon of war. While there are people in need all over 
Syria, by putting the Syrian government in charge of humanitarian aid 
this way, the UN has beleaguered its ability to deliver aid to those who 
need it most. To date the UN has not undertaken a single aid delivery 
inside the country without government consent, despite multiple Security 
Council resolutions sanctioning this.

The UN has allowed the Syrian government to direct aid from Damascus 
almost exclusively into its territories. In April 2016, 88% of food aid 
delivered from Damascus went into government-controlled territory. 12% 
went into territories outside the government’s control.2 Some months 
provide an even starker illustration of the government’s use of UN aid 
to further its own agenda. In August 2015, the government directed over 
99% of UN aid from Damascus to its territories.3 In 2015, less than 1% 
of people in besieged areas received UN food assistance each month.4

Aid deliveries from Damascus are determined through UN negotiation with 
the Syrian government. However the UN’s failure to set red lines for its 
Syria operation has undermined its negotiating power. The Syrian 
government knows there is no sanction for denying access to territories 
it does not control. It will continue to receive billions of dollars in 
UN aid regardless. This is the main reason why UN negotiations with the 
Syrian government almost always fail to gain access. In the whole of 
2015, almost 75% of UN requests were not even responded to by the 

Early attempts to bypass government control of aid by distributing 
across the borders from neighbouring countries were actively opposed by 
parts of the UN. Even now with the cross-border operation in place, the 
UN has not fully capitalised on the opportunity for fear of damaging its 
relationship with the government.

Safety of humanitarian staff is not the primary determinant of aid 
access in Syria, although UN aid chiefs often cite security concerns to 
deflect criticism of partial aid delivery. The UN has driven through 
besieged towns which have not received aid in months in order to deliver 
aid to other towns. They did not stop and offload because of the lack of 
permission, not the lack of security. A study of UN evaluations agreed 
that aid deliveries were limited “more for internal political and 
strategic reasons than for security ones”.6

Aid deliveries on the ground from inside Syria are implemented and 
overseen by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). At the branch level, 
SARC volunteers maintain a reputation for self-sacrifice and integrity – 
many have been killed by the government for attempting to deliver aid to 
those most in need. However, at the senior levels where the organisation 
is controlled, SARC is an auxiliary of the government. This puts the 
UN’s independence in serious jeopardy.

The UN’s acquiescence to the dominant role of the government in drafting 
key strategy documents, the UN’s support for controversial local truces 
following sieges and the UN’s systematic failure to recognise and 
classify besieged areas all contribute to further weakening of its 
humanitarian principles.

Signatories to this report recommend that the UN immediately define a 
set of public conditions under which the UN humanitarian agencies could 
continue to cooperate with the Syrian government and still maintain 
impartiality, independence and neutrality. If these conditions are not 
met, the UN should suspend cooperation with the Syrian government. A UN 
operation that violates its humanitarian principles becomes party to the 
conflict and stands accused of doing harm.


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