Mr. Jan Egeland
Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Chair of International Syria Support Group Humanitarian Access Task Force
CC: Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria Envoys of the International Syria Support Group
23 June 2017
Special Advisor Egeland,
We are urgently writing to you as the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens. As Syrian civilians and members of Syrian civil society it is our duty to seek international action to protect civilians and create the humanitarian access Syrians desperately need.
We, more than anyone, will support all viable efforts to protect civilians. Sadly the most recent de-escalation agreement was flawed from the outset. A deal that allows parties to the conflict, mainly the Syrian regime and its backers, to commit violations with impunity was never the solution. In the first month since the agreement went into effect, the Syrian Network for Human Rights recorded 75 breaches of the agreement – over 90 percent by the regime. As we write to you, the regime, Iran, and Russia are continuing air and artillery attacks on populated areas such as Daraa, while civilians in Raqqa are losing their lives as a result of the heavy bombardment by the anti-ISIS coalition.
Equally urgent is the humanitarian situation in Syria’s 37 besieged communities, home to over 900,000 people who have been forced to accept serious shortages of food and medical supplies, forced displacement, and even death by starvation as the norm.
In the face of the shameful state of humanitarian access, the UN and Member States must seek a step-change to ensure aid reaches those in most need, including through airdrops. Last year members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) vowed to carry out airdrops if humanitarian aid access continued to be blocked. The ISSG never carried out that commitment and, one year later, access has deteriorated. But once again we are now hearing from Western leaders – such as the French president – that aid access is a red line. We are undeniably past the point of this red line being crossed.
Your leadership is critical in pushing for credible alternatives for aid delivery where land access remains impossible. We fully appreciate that airdrops are not the best means of delivering aid, but they will nonetheless save some lives and may create the leverage required to force the regime’s hand on land delivery. Nor should we hold out hope for regime consent in this
endeavor: the regime that uses the Syrian people’s suffering for its political gain will never be a partner in delivering full relief and aid to those in need.
Mr. Egeland, we urge you to:
- Explicitly call on members of the ISSG to break the humanitarian sieges through the effective delivery of airdrops to all those in need across Syria. Urge Member States to provide protection for UN-led airdrop operations or to carry out airdrops unilaterally using their own resources if the political will for multilateral action is absent – across besieged and hard-to-reach areas irrespective of the Syrian regime’s consent, and using unmanned aerial vehicles if necessary.
- Demand credible monitoring and enforcement of the de-escalation agreement. As Syrian civil society organisations active on the ground we are ready to support any credible monitoring mechanism. However, it is the duty of the UN, as an observer to the Astana process, to assert its role and ensure that any ceasefire agreement is comprehensive, impartially monitored through the UN, and enforced with concrete consequences for violators by Member States. Furthermore, make clear that any ceasefire agreement must include sustained and unhindered humanitarian access with credible security guarantees for aid convoys and personnel.
- Ensure the credibility of political talks in Geneva by calling for comprehensive civilian protection across Syria. The credibility of the Geneva process and the ISSG is at great risk. We need a guarantee that indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure by any weapon will be met with consequences. Recent commitments by France to take unilateral action to deter chemical weapons attacks by the regime are welcome. But civilian protection needs to be comprehensive and systematic. Otherwise political talks will be meaningless if they continue to be undermined by violence on the ground. Nor will the regime be compelled to negotiate seriously until its military strategy is curtailed.
Mr. Egeland, we look to you to ensure that the international community and ISSG uphold their responsibilities towards the Syrian people. Seven years into the conflict, Syrians have been forced to settle time and again: settle for failed attempts at ceasefires that are by design destined to fail; a political process that cannot succeed because it is not backed up with the means to pressure the obstructive party to negotiate; and ad-hoc humanitarian access that is manipulated as part of the regime’s military strategy. Syrians deserve better. We are counting on your support as we strive to end the Syrian crisis and bring a political solution that delivers the free, democratic, and inclusive country for which our fellow Syrians have sacrificed so much.
We have copied this letter to Mr. Staffan de Mistura and Envoys of the ISSG.
Signed by 143 Syrian Organisation