International Community Must Unite to Save the Syrian Civilians

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström

After seven years of war, the violence and intolerable suffering inflicted on the civilian population in Syria continues without respite. In fact, we are now witnessing some of the worst fighting since the conflict began. In the past few weeks alone, hundreds more people have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been driven from their homes. There are persistent reports of attacks directed at hospitals and schools, revealing complete disregard for human life and the duty to protect civilians.

Time is running out for the people of Syria. Even before the most recent escalation, the humanitarian situation in Syria was one of the worst in the world. The conflict has driven 11 million people, half of the Syrian population, from their homes, time and again. Many have found refuge in the region and beyond. Inside Syria, 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance to stay alive. The worst affected are the 2.5 million people trapped in towns and cities that are cut off from the rest of the country by military sieges. As a result of this cruel tactic, humanitarian access to these communities is now almost non-existent. They cannot survive much longer. The current escalation of violence will undoubtedly push many over the edge. Children and young people make up more than half of the displaced, as well as half of those in need of humanitarian assistance.

Against this background, and in response to calls from the United Nations and its humanitarian agencies, Sweden and Kuwait have proposed a resolution in the UN Security Council. The draft resolution calls for an immediate pause in hostilities in Syria to enable regular aid convoys with food and medicines to all those in need, increased protection of civilians and the safe medical evacuation of the critically ill and wounded. Our message is clear: the international community can no longer stand idly by as this devastating human tragedy continues to escalate.

We must now show unity and put the lives of civilians first. The human toll of this conflict to date has been devastating and the unwillingness of the UN Security Council to act is putting its credibility at stake. However, the adoption of resolution 2393 in December 2017 shows that meaningful Council action to alleviate the suffering in Syria is possible. Resolution 2393 ensured the continuation of a vital humanitarian lifeline for three million Syrians in parts of the north and south of the country. It was the only resolution on Syria adopted within the Council last year. More must be done to address the needs of civilians right across the country.

Although the tireless efforts of the humanitarian community are important, the only way to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria is through a sustainable political solution to the conflict. We know that a sustainable peace is more likely to be achieved when women are adequately represented and actively participates in the decision-making. We remain convinced that the only viable path to a just peace in Syria is through the UN-led political process. The UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, have our full support in their efforts.

In the absence of a political solution, civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. They need us to act now to save lives. We trust that all members of the Security Council will put their differences aside, engage constructively and adopt a purely humanitarian resolution that can make a real difference for people who have suffered through seven years of conflict. Surely, we can do at least this.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström

(Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper)