posted on Mon 29 Sep 2014 5:19 PM
Briefing on Humanitarian Access in Syria

Tomorrow morning (30 September), Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos will brief the Security Council on humanitarian access in Syria pursuant to resolutions 2139 and 2165. Her public briefing will be followed by consultations.

Amos will present a report for the period 19 August to 17 September (S/2014/696). She is expected to report limited gains in the distribution of food and medical assistance and broader humanitarian reach in Aleppo, Dar’a, Hama and Idlib, Ladhiqiya and Quneitra. However, the humanitarian situation in Syria remains devastating, with a death toll conservatively estimated at 191,000, 3.03 million refugees and 6.4 million internally displaced persons. Almost half of the population, 10.8 million, require humanitarian assistance, and of those 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas and 241,000 are in besieged areas.

There have been 14 cross-border aid convoys, but cross-line deliveries within Syria remain inherently difficult due to the security situation and government procedures. The government continues to use administrative obstacles to slow aid delivery, in particular procedures for sealing trucks carrying aid and case-by-case negotiations of deliveries to hard-to-reach areas. Meanwhile, armed opposition groups and terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), block access to each other’s areas of control. Council members would be interested to know why access is improving in some areas and not others.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first Syria-specific Council meeting since US-led airstrikes against ISIS began in Syria on 22 September. Council members expect the public briefing to stay firmly focused on the humanitarian track. In the following consultations, some Council members may be interested in whether Amos has been able to see whether these strikes have had impact on the wider humanitarian situation in Syria. On the other hand, Council members think it is highly unlikely that Amos would volunteer to comment on the strikes in public or private. Nevertheless, several Council members are interested to see if discussion during consultations tomorrow breaks off from the humanitarian track to the broader issue of the further militarisation of the conflict and the continuing lack of a credible political horizon.

Several Council members are likely to emphasise that resolution 2139 was broader than humanitarian access and Amos is expected to report no progress in implementing any of the other key demands regarding human rights and protection of civilians, such as observing medical neutrality, ceasing aerial bombardments and easing administrative hurdles.

Despite a continued deterioration of the situation on the ground, the Council seems to be largely in a holding pattern on Syria. The accountability track is frozen following the 22 May veto by China and Russia of the ICC referral. Meanwhile, activity on the chemical weapons and humanitarian tracks has shifted down into monitoring mode. It is unlikely that either will garner much attention before year’s end when the authorisation for cross-border aid deliveries will need to be revisited and when Sigrid Kaag is expected to leave her “good offices” role on the chemical weapons track.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on humanitarian access, as all previous such reports, calls for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Most Council members expect Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to brief in early October following a round of September meetings in Damascus and the region, as well as meetings in New York during leaders’ week of the 69th General Assembly.