Statement on behalf of Sweden and Kuwait at the UN Security Council Briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria

Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations, Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi, on behalf of Sweden and Kuwait at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria, 29 October 2018, New York.

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to thank Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Mark Lowcock, for his valuable briefing, which confirms the continuing dire humanitarian situation in Syria. We support your five asks and call upon all Council members to work vigorously to this end. I would like to pay tribute to all medical and humanitarian workers for their efforts in the field to alleviate the suffering in Syria. I will present this statement on behalf of the penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Sweden and Kuwait. I will focus on two points: the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and humanitarian access.

Protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure:

1.     We reaffirm that all parties must respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, including by protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure. We also call on all parties to respect international human rights law.  The period covered by the Secretary-General's report has witnessed killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, deprivation of liberty, abduction, torture, and inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment. We condemn in the strongest terms these practices against civilians by any party.

2.     We welcome the Russian-Turkish agreement on ceasefire in Idlib – whose population is around 3 million, including 1 million children, which averted the immediate threat of a humanitarian catastrophe there. We applaud the prepositioning measures taken by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners of humanitarian assistance and food to places in Idlib in preparation for the worst possible situation. In this regard, we stress the importance of the sustainability of the cease-fire in Idlib, and throughout Syria, to enable access to humanitarian assistance and evacuation of injured persons in accordance with international law and as stipulated in resolution 2401.

3.     We are also concerned with developments in other parts of Syria. In Deir al-Zour, there are thousands of civilians affected by military operations. In this context, we call upon all parties to strengthen the protection of civilians during military operations against the terrorist group – Daesh (ISIL). We express our concern about the continuing danger of explosives, including mines and improvised explosive devices in Raqqa, especially for the 152,000 people who have returned.

4.     Unfortunately, the reporting period has witnessed a continuation of one of the most egregious violations of international law, namely the continued targeting of hospitals and health facilities. We condemn attacks against hospitals, as well as attacks targeting critical civilian facilities, and remind all parties of resolution 2286 and the specific obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and protect medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, and hospitals and other medical facilities..

5.     The report also refers to a number of cases where schools have been targeted, resulting in the suspension of school activity. We remind the parties of their obligations under international law and the need to comply with resolution 2427 on children and armed conflict and not to target schools.

Mr. President,

Humanitarian Access:

1.     There are still significant challenges for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria, as stated in the report of the Secretary-General. Although 1.5 million people remain in hard-to-reach areas, inter-agency convoys have not been approved since 16 August. We call upon the Syrian authorities to cooperate with the United Nations to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those most in need, especially in those areas that have come back under government control, through the various humanitarian modalities. Today, only about 30 percent of the population with acute needs in these so called “hard to reach areas” are reached by a needs-based, principled and sustained humanitarian assistance. A major reason for this, is the non-approval by Syrian authorities of access permissions. We emphasize the need for humanitarian assistance to reach those in need in accordance with the humanitarian principles, including the principle of impartiality and non-discrimination. In this context, we welcome the reference in the recent joint statement agreed by Turkey, Russia, France and Germany that underscored the need to ensure humanitarian organisations’ rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria and immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

2.     As we refer to humanitarian access, we must recall what the Secretary General has stated in his report; that cross-border humanitarian assistance provides an indispensable life-line for hundreds of thousands of people across Syria. Cross-border aid is a vital and important part of the humanitarian response in Syria, as evidenced by its reach of 620,000 people in September.

3.     We would also like to express our deep concern over the horrible situation in Rukban, where more than 45,000 people are suffering acute shortages of food, humanitarian and medical supplies. Let us heed the calls from OCHA and the UN system. We call on all parties to facilitate immediate delivery to Rukban. Anything short of delivery is unacceptable.

4.     Sweden and Kuwait, as penholders of the Syria humanitarian file and amongst the largest donors to the Syria humanitarian response plan - will ensure that the Council closely follows the humanitarian developments in Syria. There remains 13 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance; more than 5 million of them are children. Regrettably, it pains us to know that this humanitarian catastrophe will continue in the near and medium term. The humanitarian situation and suffering will only be alleviated by achieving progress on the political track, through a political solution based on resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique.  

Thank you Mr. President.

Contact

Lisa Laskaridis
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