Syria: "we must also put an end to the instrumentalization of humanitarian assistance" [fr]
Syria / cross-border humanitarian aid
Explanation of vote by Mrs Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Chargé d’Affaires a.i.
Security Council - 10 January 2020
It was essential that the cross-border humanitarian assistance mechanism for Syria be renewed today, when it was set to expire. France deeply regrets that resolution 2504 (2020), which we have just adopted, reduces its scope from four crossing points to two and from a duration of 12 months to a duration of only 6.
The Secretary-General, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, humanitarian agencies and the countries of the region have repeatedly emphasized that today there is no alternative to this mechanism, on which the lives of 4 million Syrians depend. Why? Because the Syrian regime continues to instrumentalize aid to populations in need for political purposes, in defiance of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, by granting authorizations one at a time, by selecting beneficiaries and by diverting assistance. That has not changed in recent months.It should also be remembered that every day, cross-border humanitarian aid makes it possible to bring vital assistance to 2.7 million people in the north-west and 1.3 million people in the north-east of Syria. Without that aid, those millions of people would depend entirely on the Damascus regime, rather than the United Nations and humanitarian actors, and would find themselves at its mercy.
There can be no ambiguity about the fact that the mechanism that we have just renewed is in no way dependent on the consent of the Syrian regime. That has been the very raison d’être of the binding decisions that our Council has been adopting since 2014, and it remains so to this day. France has engaged in good faith and actively in the negotiations conducted by the co-penholders, whose efforts and willingness to find intelligent compromises I commend. We have communicated tirelessly, pragmatically, with all stakeholders to preserve the mechanism in all its components.We deeply regret that the Al-Yarubiyah crossing point could not be maintained. This point is of crucial importance because it allows 40 per cent of medicines to be transported to the north-east — medicines that cannot reach that region via convoys from Damascus. We regret that the World Health Organization is now unable to transport the convoy of 8 to 10 trucks that was planned for the coming weeks.While the overwhelming majority of the Council supported the renewal in its entirety of this vital mechanism for north-western and north-eastern Syria through the maintenance of the authorization of passage through Al-Yarubiyah, Russia has again yielded to the demands of a criminal regime. That indicates disregard for the human lives that are at stake. It is also to disregard the principles of neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality of humanitarian aid, which must be able to reach everyone, whatever side they are on, by the most direct and effective means. Russia’s intransigence on this point is morally and humanly incomprehensible and unacceptable.
The mandate that the Security Council has just conferred on the Secretary-General to put forward by the end of February options making it possible to deliver humanitarian aid, including medicines, to the north-east is vital in this context. We call on everyone, above all Russia, to act responsibly and to take at that time a decision that draws on the consequences of the analysis of the options to put forward by the Secretary-General.We also deplore the fact that the mechanism has been renewed for only six months and not 12, although humanitarian operations require predictability and stability in order to be prepared and conducted effectively and sustainably. It is urgent that the political process get back on track, but we must also put an end to the instrumentalization of humanitarian assistance. The survival of millions of Syrians depends on this.