SC: Syria (humanitarian)

Statement by co-penholders Norway and Ireland on the humanitarian situation in Syria, delivered by Permanent Representative of Ireland Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, 25 February 2022.

I make this statement today on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syria humanitarian file, Norway and Ireland. Many thanks, Joyce, for your briefing, which has once again underlined the depth of ongoing humanitarian needs on the ground. You have also reminded us of the complex challenge of delivering the humanitarian response throughout Syria.

Since the start of 2022, Syria has seen increased insecurity and violence. Hostilities have resulted in the deaths of at least 92 civilians during the reporting period, including 19 children. Their deaths, and the systematic harming of civilians perpetrated by parties to the conflict, is deplorable. This flagrant disregard for the lives of Syrians is simply unacceptable, yet has tragically become the norm. We urge all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by ensuring the protection of civilians, and civilian infrastructure in the conduct of military operations. 

More than a decade of armed conflict on multiple fronts in Syria has left vast stretches of the country littered with mines and all kinds of explosive ordnance. Innocent civilians –seeking only to go about their daily lives - pay the terrible price through loss of life or limb. Explosive ordnance contamination is not only a major protection concern, but it also stands in the way of expanding humanitarian access, as well as efforts to build livelihoods and resilience in Syria.

Mine Action clearance capacity has long been a missing link in the broader chain of humanitarian interventions in Syria. We welcome the commencement of UNMAS-supported clearance operations in Western Ghouta. The arrival of capable Mine Action organizations in Syria offers donors and other humanitarian stakeholders an opportunity to begin filling the gap as a matter of urgency, in line with humanitarian principles.

We are deeply concerned by the continuously deteriorating security situation at Al Hol camp, with four murders reported in January alone. We urge that the review of security protocols be concluded swiftly. It is crucial that security provided at the camp protects civilians and humanitarian workers, without constraining humanitarian access.

Syrians continue to struggle through a harsh and cruel winter, to devastating effect. Camps have been flooded, destroying tents, affecting the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, and resulting in the deaths of men, women, and children. The economic crisis has deepened, driving food prices ever higher and contributing to food insecurity. Water access has been further affected by hostilities, low rainfall, and disruptions to the water systems. We commend the continued efforts of the UN and other humanitarian organisations in delivering early recovery activities, and welcome progress made in this regard during the reporting period.

Through this bleak season, the humanitarian cross border operation continues to provide critical humanitarian support for millions of people in desperate need in North West Syria. As stated once again by the Secretary General, there is currently no alternative that can match the scale and the scope of the cross-border operation.

As co-penholders, Ireland and Norway continue to emphasise our support for all modalities to meet the humanitarian needs of all the people of Syria. The humanitarian access landscape in Syria remains complex. The delivery and distribution of the second cross line delivery to North West Syria is welcome, but the lack of a cross line delivery to date in 2022 is a disappointment. It is vital that the necessary approvals and security guarantees are provided. We encourage continued efforts, and call on all parties to commit to ensuring that humanitarian deliveries can reach all people in need. It is the people of Syria, already in dire need, who continue to suffer when humanitarian access is not possible.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that our guiding principle on this file is, and will remain, addressing the significant humanitarian needs of all the Syrian people. This Council must continue to work as one to ensure that those needs are met.

I thank you.