Secretary-General Urges Security Council to Expand Aid Access into Syria, Renew Resolution 2585 (2021) on Cross-Border Operations as ‘Moral Imperative’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, in New York today:

The humanitarian situation in Syria remains dire for millions of children, women and men across the country.  Needs are at their highest since the start of the war over 11 years ago.

The world’s largest refugee crisis continues to impact the region and the world.  I have just issued another report on the humanitarian situation in Syria and after my brief introduction, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs will brief you on the latest developments.

The figures are stark:  14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance.  Twelve million people are food insecure, unsure where their next meal is coming from.  Ninety per cent of the population live below the poverty line.  Infrastructure is crumbling, destroyed by years of conflict.  Economic activity halved during a decade of conflict, regional financial crises, sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economy is set to contract further this year, according to the World Bank.  People are living on the brink, no longer able to cope.

Our current humanitarian appeal requires $4.4 billion to assist people inside Syria and another $5.6 billion to support refugees in the region.  We have made great strides in scaling up the response, but more is needed.  The generous pledges made at the Brussels VI donor conference need to be paid.  I appeal to donors to follow through and increase their support.  The international community must help communities to build resilience, and create conditions to facilitate the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees and displaced people.

The needs in Syria are too great to address through immediate life-saving efforts alone.  Therefore, more than one quarter of our appeal is intended to support early recovery and resilience.  In some sectors of the response, including education, this represents around half of all projects, a meaningful increase from previous years.

Through projects that are already underway, millions will benefit from the rehabilitation of damaged hospitals, schools, water systems and other basic infrastructure.  These programmes also help communities get back on their feet, by providing opportunities for work and generating income.

Needs in the north-west of Syria continue to increase:  2.8 million people, mostly women and children, are displaced.  Many live in camps or informal settlements.  More than 90 per cent of people in the north-west need aid.  These are people who have suffered particularly heavily during 11 years of conflict and humanitarian crisis.

The massive humanitarian response the United Nations and its partners is conducting in Syria has staved off the worst, but more is required.  That is why I have consistently stated the importance of maintaining and expanding access, including through cross-line and cross-border operations.

When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need across Syria, all channels should be made, and kept, available.

After the Council united last year to adopt resolution 2585 (2021), the United Nations responded.  Despite the incredibly challenging operating environment, the United Nations has delivered aid across the front lines into the north-west.  Five cross-line convoys have now provided life-saving assistance to tens of thousands of people in need.  Efforts continue every day, and we anticipate more cross-line convoys will follow.

We have also taken full advantage of the cross-border authorization to save lives.  Hundreds of trucks now cross from Türkiye every month.  Since cross-border aid was authorized in 2014, over 50,000 trucks have crossed into Syria to provide assistance to those in need.  The United Nations cross-border operation into Syria is one of the most heavily scrutinized and monitored aid operations in the world.

There is no doubt that our aid is reaching the people in need.

While increasing cross-line assistance was an important achievement, in the present circumstances it is not at the scale needed to replace the massive cross-border response.  I strongly appeal to the members of the Council to maintain consensus on allowing cross-border operations, by renewing resolution 2585 (2021) for an additional 12 months.  It is a moral imperative to address the suffering and vulnerability of 4.1 million people in the area who need aid and protection.  Eighty per cent of those in need in north-west Syria are women and children.

Together, the international community has helped avoid a total collapse in Syria.  We have improved access; we have built resilience.  But the only way to end the humanitarian tragedy in Syria is through a truly nationwide ceasefire and a political solution that enables the Syrian people to determine their own future.

We must show the courage and determination to do all that is necessary to reach a negotiated political solution in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  I urge all members of the Council to do everything in their power to encourage the parties to engage in meaningful negotiations for peace.  We cannot give up on the people of Syria.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.