posted on Wed 17 Aug 2011 9:51 AM
Security Council Briefing on Syria

On Thursday, 18 August, Security Council members are expecting a briefing during consultations from Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. It seems Amos is likely to brief the Council on humanitarian access issues and plans for an OCHA humanitarian assessment mission now that Damascus has in principle given it the go-ahead. Council members seem to be anticipating that Pillay’s briefing will include information on the first draft of a commission of inquiry report into the violence in Syria requested by the Human Rights Council on 29 April. (The final report is expected to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September.)

It appears that there have been discussions over the format for the briefing. Some members would like to have the briefing at an open meeting followed by consultations while others are not keen to give Syria the floor. ( As a country directly affected by the discussion, Syria could ask to participate at an open meeting.) However, at press time, no decision had been made to change the format from consultations as indicated on the latest programme of work.

It seems that during consultations some members are likely to reinforce the need for an immediate end to all violence as called for in the 3 August presidential statement. However, it appears that Council members are not looking to make any new decisions at this meeting.

On 10 August, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Férnandez-Taranco briefed Council members on the situation in Syria. During the briefing Council members were told that close to 2,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. Apparently Férnandez-Taranco also provided information on Syrian security forces opening fire on its own troops who refused to fire on civilians.

During the 10 August briefing the Council also heard about the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) visit to Damascus. In its press statement following the visit, while urging all sides to respect human rights and international human rights law, the IBSA delegation expressed grave concern at the situation, condemned the violence and called for an immediate end to all violence. It also stressed the importance of the Syrian government continuing the process of national dialogue and political reforms.

It seems that some Council members believe that for the IBSA initiative to continue to add value it would probably require further interaction with Damascus to follow-up the calls made in the IBSA press release. However, at press time, there were no plans for another IBSA delegation visit to Damascus.

While it seems that Syria is likely to be an issue on which the Council will need to stay engaged, it appears that there are still differences over the appropriate pace and level of engagement.