The United Nations Security Council today unanimously approved a resolution to boost humanitarian aid access in Syria, a move Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said can ease some civilian suffering, if it is implemented quickly and in good faith
Through Resolution 2139 (2014), the Council demanded "that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders".
The 15-member Council also called for an immediate end to all forms of violence in the country and strongly condemned the rise of Al Qaida-affiliated terror.
Members insisted that all parties cease attacking civilians, including through the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, such as shelling and aerial bombardment with barrel bombs, whose use has been condemned by senior UN officials.
Mr. Ban, who participated in the rare Saturday meeting, welcomed the resolution but added that it "should not have been necessary" as humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated but allowed by virtue of international law.
He expressed profound shock that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war, and noted that reports of human rights violations continue, including massacres, as well as sexual and gender-based violence against children.
In the resolution, the Council strongly condemned the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, and urged all parties involved in the conflict to lift sieges of populated areas, including in Aleppo, Damascus and Rural Damascus, and Homs.
They also underscored the importance of medical neutrality and demanded the demilitarization of medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities.
After the Security Council meeting, the authors of the adopted text, Ambassador Gary Quinlan from Australia, Luxembourgs Sylvie Lucas, and Prince Zeid Raad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of Jordan, highlighted the Council's commitment to take further steps in case of non-compliance with the resolution.
Ambassadors Gary Francis Quinlan (Australia), Prince Zeid Raad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan) and Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg) brief reporters. Credit: UNTV
The Council has asked that Mr. Ban submit a report to the members every 30 days from today specifying progress made towards the resolution's implementation.
Today's text builds on the Presidential Statement adopted four months ago, which stressed the need for immediate action to protect civilians and give access to people in need.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said she hopes the passing of the resolution will facilitate delivery of aid. In a statement after the adoption, she underscored the importance of protecting ordinary people who have been bearing the brunt of the violence, particularly children.
Earlier this month, Ms. Amos noted that despite modest progress on the humanitarian front, the UN and partners have not been able to reach the most vulnerable people in the country.
She underscored her plea to Council members to do everything they can to use their influence over the parties to this appalling conflict, to ensure that they abide by humanitarian pauses and ceasefires, give humanitarian actors sustained and regular access, commit, in writing, to upholding international humanitarian law, allow systematic cross-line access, and prevent UN relief teams from being shot at while delivering aid to people in need.
Well over 100,000 people have been killed and an estimated 9 million others driven from their homes since the conflict erupted between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and various groups seeking his ouster nearly three years ago.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently more than 2.4 million refugees registered in the region: some 932,000 in Lebanon; 574,000 in Jordan; some 613,000 in Turkey; 223,000 in Iraq; and about 134,000 in Egypt.
In today's resolution, the Council emphasized that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution and expressed support for the UN-sponsored direct talks between Government and opposition representatives.
At the end of the second round of talks last week, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative, expressed regret that only modest cooperation between the sides was reached on humanitarian effort.
Mr. Brahimi, who is scheduled to be at the UN Headquarters next week, said the parties had agreed that a new round of talks would focus on violence and terrorism, a transitional governing body, national institutions and national reconciliation.