U.N. Mandates Humanitarian Aid Access in Syria

The United Nations Security Council came together for the first time regarding humanitarian aid access in Syria. A resolution passed by the UNSC on February 24 mandates that both the Syrian government and opposition must allow for aid convoys to get through to civilians throughout the country.

This resolution comes after at least one year of Security Council contemplation on the topic of increased humanitarian aid access in Syria; there were also months of subsequent talks on the subject. A non-binding statement released on October 2, 2013 urged improved access to aid, but to little avail.

Though some criticize the resolution for a failure to threaten sanctions if for some reason the parties do not meet the terms, unanimous approval was attained by removing the clause that previously referenced sanctions. Russia and China vetoed three similar resolutions in the past yet voted in favor this time around.

U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia backed his approval, stating that “many Russian considerations were borne in mind and as a result the document took on a balanced nature.” Likewise, China expressed its concern for the situation in Syria and emphasized the necessity to carry out the resolution accordingly.

Russia’s compliance is considered extremely important, as proper implementation of the resolution will likely present some difficulties. By using its leverage over the Syrian government, Russia can be an exceptional asset to the document’s success.

In addition to demanding access for aid convoys across borders, the resolution denounces barrel bombs and requires a cessation of sieges countrywide. The resolution was drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg and its unanimous approval is considered a “moment of hope” for the Syrian people by Lithuanian U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite.

At present, the UNSC has taken on five resolutions as a result of the conflict in Syria. In addition to the aid access resolution, a resolution was adopted in 2013 regarding the eradication of chemical weapons in the country; 2012 saw three resolutions for a U.N. observer mission to Syria.

While unanimous approval in the Security Council on any matter is exciting, some find the necessity for this particular resolution disheartening. According to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, humanitarian aid access should not need to be negotiated.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: BBC, Reuters
Photo: Ebru News