Aid Groups Say U.N. Resolutions on Syria Have Failed Completely

Worsening humanitarian conditions in the country mean that the Security Council deserves an "F" grade, the groups say.


When airstrikes in Syria forced Samah and her family to flee to the mountains, they wound up living in a cave, scrounging for grass and bark to eat. “Living in the caves was impossible; it was total misery,” the mother of six now living in a Syrian displaced persons camp told researchers. “We got this tent four months ago so that we are now finally living on our own. Can you imagine that our dream had become just to have our own tent?”

Samah’s is one of several accounts by desperate Syrians detailed in a new report released by a coalition of 21 aid groups that includes Oxfam, Save the Children, and the Syria Relief Network. The report finds that the United Nations Security Council resolutions passed last year to improve Syria’s dire humanitarian crisis have utterly failed.

The three Security Council resolutions demanded an end to attacks on civilians, called for increased aid, and authorized U.N. operations to deliver that aid without the Syrian government’s consent. But with no end to the Syrian civil war in sight and humanitarian conditions worse than ever, the report gives the Security Council an “F” grade.

Within Syria, 11.6 million people, or two-thirds of the population, are now in need of emergency assistance, up nearly a third from 2013, the report finds. Among them, some 4.8 million live in areas that aid agencies can reach either only occasionally or not at all. Water supplies in the country are about 50 percent of what they were before the conflict began, the report says.

The report also condemns the continued killing, torture, and rape of civilians; kidnappings; and attacks on schools and hospitals by various sides, including the Syrian government, which has continued to obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid. Of the 220,000 people killed since the conflict began in 2011, 76,000 people died in 2014, making it the war’s deadliest year so far. “The number of refugees entering neighbouring countries rose to 3.7 million by the end of 2014 and is projected to rise to 4.3 million by the end of 2015,” the report says.

It adds that arms transfers from the United States and Persian Gulf countries to rebel groups and from Iran to the Syrian government are fueling the violence. And countries around the world are failing to deliver enough assistance or take in enough refugees, it says, noting that the U.N. is appealing for $8.4 billion to address the humanitarian need.

That amount sounds like a lot, but the report argues that it’s well within reach. “To put the size of the UN appeal into perspective, this is less than the UK government spent on the London Olympics, a fifth of the price of the Beijing Olympics and a sixth of the cost of the Sochi Winter Olympics,” it says.

It’s a jarring contrast, but one that may well fall on deaf ears — just like the Security Council resolutions themselves.

Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Justine Drennan was a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously reported from Cambodia for the Associated Press and other outlets. Twitter: @jkdrennan

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