Syria: unacceptable restrictions for humanitarian assistance [fr]
The humanitarian situation in Syria - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 29 November 2017
- Cross-border assistance remains absolutely essential to the humanitarian response in Syria.
- Credits: UNHCR
At the outset, I should like to thank Mr. Mark Lowcock for his comprehensive and objective briefing, and to emphasize the extent of France’s concern at the recent developments in the humanitarian situation in Syria. In that context, I would like to highlight three points that are essential in our view: the critical situation of the people in eastern Ghouta, who are besieged and without humanitarian assistance; attacks against hospitals and medical facilities; and the persistent restrictions on access to humanitarian assistance in Syria.
First, in eastern Ghouta, the Syrian regime has established a veritable blockade that has trapped the Syrian people. Dozens of civilians have died in recent days, victims of the intensified bombing by the regime, which continues to use famine as a means of war.
No United Nations convoy has been authorized since that sent to Duma on 12 November. The population, exhausted by over four years of siege carried out in disregard of the fundamental principles of humanitarian law, has been subjected to every kind of suffering.
The recent figures reported by the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières in eastern Ghouta are terrifying. Hospitals sponsored by that organization treated 576 wounded and recorded 69 dead between 14 and 26 November. One-quarter of those victims were women and children. Moreover, as stressed in the report of the Secretary-General (S/2017/982), the regime continues to refuse to deliver the necessary authorization for emergency medical evacuations. More than 470 people are concerned, including 193 children. France once again calls on States with influence on the regime to persuade it to authorize enable those evacuations. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must end.
More broadly, and beyond eastern Ghouta, the regime continues to remove medicines and medical material from convoys. Medicines and medical material for more than 12,000 people were removed from convoys last month. In total, over 630,000 medicines have been removed since the beginning of the year. We have already had occasion in the Council to strongly denounce that practice, which is entirely unacceptable.
Equally unacceptable are ongoing restrictions on access for humanitarian assistance in Syria.
The report of the Secretary-General is clear. De-escalation zones have not led to a genuine improvement in humanitarian access. Violations of humanitarian law are still being observed. Humanitarian assistance across the front lines remains greatly limited despite the establishment of a tripartite coordination mechanism. On average, in 2017 only 26 per cent of those targeted were able to benefit each month, and only 10 per cent were able to benefit in October.
Obstacles remain to the provision of humanitarian assistance, including, inter alia, myriad bureaucratic restrictions that have been duly documented and reported.
We can never sufficiently emphasize that the priority is to ensure safe, full, immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Syrian territory. Any form of obstacle to the delivery of humanitarian assistance is unacceptable and must be firmly denounced and condemned as such.
France calls on the States guarantors of de-escalation zones to fully exercise their responsibility so as to put an end to the violence and to ensure that humanitarian assistance can reach people in need without obstacle.
Cross-border assistance remains absolutely essential to the humanitarian response in Syria. Nearly 800,000 people enjoyed such assistance last month. Since the establishment of the cross-border monitoring mechanism in July 2014, the United Nations has provided significant humanitarian and health assistance, as well as medical treatment for millions of Syrians, through that channel. The Council will soon address the renewal of resolution 2165 (2014), and we call for it to demonstrate unity and responsibility to safeguard that fundamental achievement. It is indeed vital — in the true sense of the word — to ensure access to people in need as promptly and effectively as possible. The renewal of resolution 2165 (2014) is therefore a top priority for France.
The critical situation requires more than ever before an effective cessation of hostilities throughout the entire territory, with a genuine monitoring mechanism and sanctions in place for violations. Ongoing bombardment makes humanitarian operations more difficult. We therefore call on the guarantors to do their utmost to ensure effective implementation.
As a new round of intra-Syrian talks began yesterday in Geneva, I recall that a lasting cessation of fighting and improvement in the humanitarian situation will hinge solely on a political solution, pursuant to resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522, annex). United Nations mediation, with all of our support, despite our differences, is the only way to bring about a negotiated democratic transition. We reaffirm our support for Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
Lastly, we strongly reaffirm France’s ongoing support for humanitarian operations, but neither reconstruction efforts nor requests for financial contributions to that end will make sense until a lasting political solution is implemented in Syria, with the support of all.