News Focus: Syria

Key Resources

Syrian children shelter in a doorway amid gunfire and shelling. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0218/Alessio Romenzi

About the Intra-Syrian Negotiations

Since March 2011, Syria has been in the throes of a conflict that has forced more than half of all Syrians to leave their homes. An estimated 5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6 million are internally displaced. The crisis, described as the worst humanitarian disaster of our time with more than 13 million people in need of assistance, has caused untold suffering for Syrian men, women and children.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, is working tirelessly to bring the parties to the negotiating table and an end to the war. 

The Special Envoy has convened the parties to the United Nations Office at Geneva for the next round of intra-Syrian talks on the 10th of July 2017. Previous rounds were held on these dates:

  • From 23 February to 3 March 2017
  • From 23 to 31 March 2017
  • From 15 to 19 May 2017

As mandated by Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015), the talks focus on governance, a schedule and process to draft a new constitution and the holding of elections as the basis for a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned process to end the conflict. Discussions include counter-terrorism strategies.

Previously, the parties met in Geneva in February, March and April 2016.

In parallel, parties were convened in Ankara, Turkey in December 2016, by Russia, Turkey and Iran, agreed to a nationwide ceasefire that began on 30 December 2016. Between January and May 2017, parties attended Astana talks in Kazakhstan. These talks, convened by the three guarantors: Russia, Turkey and Iran, resulted in an agreement to create four "de-escalation zones" in Syria.

For all the key dates of the Syrian peace process, click here.

The UN humanitarian response

Syrian refugees queue to be registered on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal. UNHCR/M. Hofer

Over 250,000 people have been killed and over one million injured since the onset of the crisis in 2011. More than half of all Syrians have been forced to leave their homes, often multiple times, making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally. Human rights violations and abuses continue to occur in the context of widespread insecurity and in disregard of international law, international humanitarian law, and human rights law. The UN is working with partners to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.

UN agencies & humanitarian partners
* Statement by Humanitarian Principals marking five years of the Syrian conflict

Children of Aleppo carry home hot meals provided by WFP. Photo: WFP

International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism

On 21 December 2016, the UN General Assembly established the IIIM "to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and to prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings ... in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes".

  • General Assembly resolution 71/248 ( A | C | E | F | R | S )
  • Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 71/248 ( A | C | E | F | R | S )
  • Terms of reference of the IIIM, annexed to the report of the Secretary-General ( A | C | E | F | R | S )
  • Frequently asked questions on the IIIM ( A | E )
  • List of voluntary contributions to the IIIM 'as of 1 July 2017'

Syrian pro-reform activists demonstrate in front of the UN building in Beirut, Lebanon, May 2011. EPA/W. Hamzeh

With human rights violations at the heart of the Syrian crisis, the UN has called for an immediate end to violence; release of political prisoners; impartial investigations to end impunity, ensure accountability and bring perpetrators to justice; and reparations for the victims.

Human Rights Council
  • Resolutions
  • Special Sessions
  • Investigative reports

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

The crisis has also taken a devastating toll on development in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Since the onset of the crisis, Syria has gone from a middle-income country to one in which 4 of 5 residents are in poverty. Neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have also seen their hard-won development gains threatened as they cope with the challenge of hosting record numbers of refugees.

In this context, UN agencies are working together to build bridges between the humanitarian and development responses by supporting the resilience of the most affected communities in Syria and in host countries by strengthening livelihoods, rebuilding or improving infrastructure, and fostering social cohesion.

  • The Joint Mission was established on 16 October 2013 to achieve timely elimination of the Syrian-declared chemical weapons programme. It closed on 30 September 2014
  • The Mission was established following the adoption of SC resolution 2118 (2013) and upon the recommendations by the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the OPCW Director-General
  • The Secretary-General appointed a Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was established by the Security Council on 21 April, through resolution 2043, to monitor a cessation of armed violence by all parties and to support implementation of Joint Special Representative Kofi Annan's "Six-point plan" to end the conflict in Syria.

Intensified armed violence across the country forced UNSMIS to suspend its activities on 15 June 2012.

On 20 July 2012, the Security Council decided to extend the Mission for a final 30 days, stressing that any further extension would be possible only "in the event that the Secretary-General reports and the Security Council confirms the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides'' to allow the UNSMIS monitors to implement their mandate. As those conditions were not met, the Mission's mandate came to an end at midnight on 19 August 2012.

The long-awaited international conference on Syria aims to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict, and marks the first time the Syrian Government and the opposition will meet for direct talks since the conflict began in March 2011. Hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, the conference is taking place in Switzerland in two parts, opening in Montreux on 22 January 2014, and continuing at the UN office in Geneva, on 24 January. More than 30 nations have been invited to attend.

Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi

Through his good offices, the Joint Special Envoy sought to promote a peaceful solution to the crisis in line with the aspirations of the Syrian people. He represented the UN and the Arab League in what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said were "selfless efforts and contributions to the search for peace in Syria.

Meeting of the Action Group

The Joint Special Envoy (JSE) convened a meeting of the Action Group for Syria in Geneva on 30 June 2012.

Multimedia Resources
Listen to the children of Syria. They need to be heard. They need to be protected. They are the future. Credit: UNICEF
Food packing centre in Syria where WFP is boxing up food for families displaced by the conflict. Credit: WFP
One million Syrian children now registered as refugees. Credit: UNHCR
A compilation of the OPCW-UN video materials relating to the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.