Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Syria (Humanitarian)
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Syria (Humanitarian), 17 April 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr President,
Let me begin by thanking Under-Secretary-General for the second time today for his update on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Your briefing serves to remind us, if a reminder were needed, of the scale of the humanitarian crisis facing Syria and the humanitarian community. Over 12 million people - half of Syria's population - are now displaced inside and outside the country. The 700,000 people who have fled their homes since the beginning only this year as a result of the unremitting and horrific violence join this mass of humanity seeking shelter and protection.
Resolution 2401 unanimously adopted on 24 February sought to provide relief for those inside Syria by ensuring a durable humanitarian pause in the conflict. We deplore the lack of implementation of resolution 2401 to date. It is imperative that we all increase our efforts to ensure its full and immediate implementation across Syria. In this regard, the Astana guarantors must live up to their commitments, as articulated in the joint statement by their presidents on 04 April.
We reiterate the Council's demand, in resolution 2401, for unimpeded and sustained access for weekly humanitarian convoys, and I repeat weekly humanitarian convoys, including medical items. We remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and call for an immediate end to all attacks on civilians, civilian objects and medical facilities, as demanded in 2401.
We are gravely concerned for the civilians remaining in Douma, who have been subject to intensive violence, leading to the deaths of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. We call on the Syrian authorities to grant facilitation letters for humanitarian convoys to Douma immediately.
We are also concerned about the increased obstacles facing the UN in gaining access to civilians who have fled Eastern Ghouta. We call on the Syrian authorities to immediately facilitate sustained access for UN personnel to IDP-camps. In addition, the Syrian authorities must immediately grant visa requests for staff of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as part of the humanitarian surge currently underway and much needed.
We reiterate that any evacuation, from Eastern Ghouta or elsewhere, must be voluntary and in line with international law. Those who decide to leave should do so to a safe place of their choice, and with the right to return. An increased UN presence is vital to respond to the needs, not least the protection needs, of both those remaining in Eastern Ghouta and for those arriving at reception sites.
Turning to Raqqa, we thank Under-Secretary-General Lowcock for his update, which comes timely following the recent humanitarian assessment mission. We welcome the planning now underway for assistance to these areas. Improvised explosive devices - or IEDs - represent a hidden and deadly threat to the people returning to Raqqa, and we are deeply troubled by the high number of victims of these devices cited in latest report of the Secretary-General.
The clearing of mines and IEDs will be essential for the safe return of refugees and IDPs and the rehabilitation of communities, and we call on all to contribute to the implementation of this provision in 2401.
We are gravely concerned about the situation of civilians in Rukhban, many of whom are women and children. Sustained humanitarian access is essential as is the need to find longer-term and durable solutions to the situation there. We call on the UN and its partners to undertake the planned humanitarian delivery to Rukhban as soon as possible.
The humanitarian situation in Idlib is also extremely worrying, given the rapid increase in IDPs fleeing to the governorate and months of attacks on health-care facilities. The cross-border deliveries of humanitarian aid continue to constitute a lifeline for Syrians in acute need in Idlib.
We are also concerned about the situation of the almost 140,000 people displaced from Afrin. We welcome the scaled-up humanitarian response, including deliveries to areas hosting IDPs. We call on the Syrian authorities to ensure freedom of movement for IDPs to access medical services, and on Turkey to enable the safe, voluntary and dignified return of those that have been forced to flee.
The scale of the crisis in Syria and the humanitarian response needed remains immense. The humanitarian community is undertaking a herculean task – and we commend all those working in extremely challenging conditions. We must stand with them and the people of Syria. And in this regard, we are deeply troubled by the acute lack of financing for UN humanitarian operations in Syria.
We call on all member states to make substantial commitments at the Brussels conference next week and to disburse those pledges as early as possible. You can count on Sweden to continue to contribute generously to the humanitarian response in Syria.
And finally, Mr President, let me reiterate what has been said in this room numerous times before, but it deserves to be repeated: The only sustainable way to solve the humanitarian crisis in Syria is through a political solution to the conflict. At this critical time, we must seek to revitalize the UN-led political process, try putting our differences aside, and shoulder the responsibility entrusted to this Council.