I make this statement on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Ireland and Norway.
We would like to thank Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Mark Lowcock for his briefing today.
As we have heard, and as reported by the Secretary-General, USG Lowcock and a number of partners on the ground, the humanitarian situation in Syria is worse today than 10 months ago, when resolution 2533 was approved by the Security Council.
In a little over six weeks’ time, the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism renewed by Resolution 2533 will expire. At that time, this Council confronts a choice: we can live up to our principles and support Syria’s most vulnerable people. Or we can fail and face the grave humanitarian consequences.
The Security Council must act.
We must act to ensure that humanitarian assistance continues to reach all of Syria through all modalities necessary.
We must act to ensure that access is safe, rapid, and unimpeded.
In north-west Syria the number of people in need has increased by over 20 percent so far in 2021. Prices of food staples rose by over 200 percent in the last year. Winter brought freezing temperatures, flooding and further hardship for the 1.6 million people, mostly women and children, living in camps and informal settlements.
Cross-border provision of humanitarian assistance remains the only modality which can operate at the scale required to reach the 3,4 million people in need in this region, a fact that is unlikely to change over the next 12-month period.
Failure to agree on a renewal of the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism would mean that in the North West, the UN and its partners would cease the provision of food assistance for 1.4 million people monthly; education material for tens of thousands of children; and essential medical items that supported 10 million treatments in 2020 - and now include vaccinations against COVID 19. Just to mention some of the most critical areas of assistance.
As humanitarian co-penholders, Norway and Ireland have consulted all members of the Council and we will continue to do so in the weeks to come.
In keeping with our stated aim of a principled humanitarian needs-based approach, we will work to reach consensus on the renewal of a large-scale lifesaving UN cross-border response.
Let me also stress the importance of the UN Monitoring Mechanism, ensuring the verification of the humanitarian nature of all shipments cross border at Bab al Hawa. The UN cross-border operation is one of the most heavily scrutinized and monitored aid operations in the world.
Not renewing the cross-border authorization would mean losing the transparency and accountability that the UN provides for the humanitarian operation of warehouses at the border, at distribution points, and after distribution to beneficiaries.
On the question of cross-line support to the North West, which has been raised frequently in recent meetings: As we have said before, we fully support the strengthening of all modalities for humanitarian assistance in Syria.
However, despite efforts by the UN, parties have not yet been able to reach agreement on a cross-line mission across the active front lines to Atareb. We urge all parties to facilitate a cross-line mission to the northwest without delay. But we must also recognise that it will take time to scale up even in the best of circumstances.
The United Nations dispatched an average of 1,000 trucks of aid per month in 2020, crossing the border from Turkey to Idlib, and reaching 2.4 million people each month throughout the year. Cross-line convoys, even if deployed regularly, could not replicate the size and scope of this operation.
Look to the northeast: As the Secretary-General observed at the General Assembly on 30 March, the situation has worsened after the closure of al-Yarubiyah almost 16 months ago. Despite slow improvement in cross-line access, the UN still faces considerable difficulties and great unmet needs that continue to rise.
President, in conclusion,
While this Council pursues a negotiated political settlement in line with Security Council resolution 2254, and mindful of the Council’s strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, there is no excuse for not assisting the millions of people in need in Syria.
If we fail, the Syrian people will bear a terrible cost, and no one will gain.
To quote the Secretary-General:
"A large-scale cross-border response for an additional 12 months remains essential to save lives."
Let us listen to the SG, to the UN agencies, to the implementing partners, and most importantly to the Syrian people.
I thank you.