Washington D.C. - The American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS) is grateful that UN cross-border resolution 2642 will allow UN agencies to continue to supply essential aid through the Bab Al-Hawa border point, but is disappointed that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) extended this humanitarian aid access for a period of only 6 months opposed to the previous penholders’ proposed, and majority agreed upon, 12-month extension. This decision comes at a time when the humanitarian needs in Syria are at a record breaking high since the start of the crisis in 2011.
ARCS would like to thank the two penholders Ireland and Norway as well as all of the other UNSC members who have negotiated, advocated, and voted in favor for a 12-month extension of cross-border operations. It is imperative that humanitarian aid is not used as a political tool in any context, and ARCS encourages all UNSC members to continue to ensure that the lives of millions of Syrians are not jeopardized as a result of political gain.
Syria has remained one of the worst humanitarian crises throughout the last decade and, in the last year alone, there has been a 20% increase in needs in all humanitarian sectors of civilians in northwest Syria. Currently, in the region, over 4 million civilians are in need with 93% of the population relying on humanitarian assistance. In addition, growing food shortages has left over 70% of the population food insecure.
The 6-month extension will be up for renewal in January 2023 during the harsh months of winter that have historically brought conditions that drastically increase humanitarian needs across the region thus risking access to essential services such as shelter and food. As needs continue to rise, this short extension brings forth the unnecessary challenge of delivering consistent, predictable, and reliable aid at a time it is required in order to protect lives. In addition, such a short timeframe leaves no room for strategic planning of activities that would produce long-term benefits such as education programs and early recovery initiatives.
To ensure humanitarian aid continues to reach those in need and is void of political agendas, ARCS has partnered with a group of specialist international lawyers, who have conducted in depth research and drafted legal arguments stemming from said research that are capable of supporting the legality of the continuation of cross-border aid in Syria without a UNSC mandate, so that the reliable delivery of this vital aid might be immunized from political debate. Our research shows that it is not clear that a resolution was in fact necessary, and that whilst it may have made the mandate clearer, it is far from the only claim to legality for non-consensual cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria. We look forward to continuing to explore this avenue and working to ensure humanitarian aid is available and accessible to all of those in need inside Syria.