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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 30 August 2012 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks to Ministerial Meeting of the Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Permettez-moi tout d’abord de vous transmettre les salutations du Secrétaire général, qui participe actuellement au sommet du Mouvement des pays non alignés à Téhéran et au nom duquel je m’exprime aujourd’hui.

Je vous parlerai essentiellement de la situation humanitaire et de la sécurité en Syrie, tandis que le Haut-Commissaire pour les réfugiés, M. Guterres, évoquera l’aggravation de la crise provoquée par l’afflux de réfugiés syriens dans les pays voisins.

More than 2.5 million people – including refugees from Palestine and Iraq – are now in grave need of assistance and protection inside Syria.  This is more than double the number Under-Secretary-General ValerieAmos reported to you in March.

The most pressing needs include water and sanitation, food and shelter, blankets and health care.  Less than half of primary health care facilities and hospitals are now fully functional in Syria.

The destruction of pharmaceutical plants and storage facilities is making drugs and equipment scarce.  At the same time, the number of people in need of medical care increases.

Access to health facilities has become difficult or impossible in some areas due to violence, checkpoints and fuel shortages.

Food prices have tripled in some areas. 

A great number of Syrians are internally displaced and are being supported by family or friends.

More than 1.2 million others have sought refuge in public buildings, such as schools and mosques, which lack adequate water and sanitation. 

In response – and despite ongoing fighting and intensifying violence -- United Nations agencies, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent movement and their NGO partners have managed to reach more people in more places every month.

In July, World Food Programme food distribution through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and local partners reached 820,000 people throughout Syria, compared to 250,000 in April.  And we are reaching ever more people with non-food items, health kits and water and sanitation services.

But – and this is a bit but - as the conflict intensifies, the number of people in need clearly exceeds our capacity to assist.  We are now revising the humanitarian response plan to be able to assist up to 2.5 million people.

Mr. President,

Both the Government and the opposition have chosen the path of armed confrontation, with no immediate prospect of an end to the fighting and resolution of the conflict. 

Defections from the army and the government continue as the brutality of the Government’s military response alienates ever more sections of the population.

Arms flows from outside appear to be reaching both sides.  Military operations have intensified, encompassing all major cities.  Indiscriminate shelling with heavy weapons, tanks and air assets has increased.

Civilians and non-combatants, including women and children, face systematic slaughter.  There are almost daily reports of atrocities, most recently in Darayya.  These recent accounts of possible war crimes are deeply troubling – and should give us all further impetus to work to end this nightmare.

Those responsible in Government and the military forces, as well as armed opposition groups, must be held accountable for gross human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The withdrawal of UNSMIS and their observers is now almost complete.  Throughout its deployment, the mission provided clear and verified information and was in contact with all parties under difficult circumstances.

I commend those who served under complex and dangerous conditions. 

Mr. President,

As conditions deteriorate, we see dangerous repercussions for Syria’s neighbours.

We view with great concern, indeed alarm, the political, social and economic consequences of the movements of large numbers of refugees from Syria to its neighbours.  These consequences must be identified and must be addressed. 

The affected Governments, which have generously opened their borders and accepted their responsibility to shelter those who have sought refuge, need urgent support.

There are now more than 220,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.  This weighs heavily on local authorities and communities and risks having serious destabilizing effects.

The spill-over of conflict and violence into neighbouring countries must be prevented.  We urge all parties in Syria and neighbouring countries to refrain from cross-border actions that will escalate tensions. 

In this context, and on behalf of the Secretary-General, I call for the release of all who have been kidnapped or are being held hostage either in Syria or elsewhere.

This is the difficult environment in which the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, begins his work.  We welcome his presence here today and are grateful that he has accepted this important and heavy responsibility.

It is essential that the international community, and this Council in particular, unite behind him and his efforts.  Separate diplomatic tracks will only prolong the violence, the human rights abuses and the humanitarian crisis.

To meet the rising humanitarian pressure, we need to urgently address two main issues.

First, humanitarian access.  The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has done remarkable work, but it is clearly overstretched. 

We need the Government to authorize more international NGOs to operate in the country.  And UN agencies will need to expand their presence.

At the same time, security has to be improved.  Our response is shackled by obstacles – both conflict-related and by a rise in criminality, kidnappings and attacks on vehicles.

I urge Member States to emphasize to the Government and opposition groups the urgency of guaranteeing the security of aid agencies operating in areas under their control to allow for safe access to civilians and for evacuation.

The second issue is funding.  As of yesterday, the $180 million Humanitarian Response Plan is only half-funded.  Some critical sectors have received almost no funding at all. 

Donors should urgently rise to this humanitarian imperative.  Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.

As the conflict continues, Syria risks undermining its state institutions and losing its cultural and historical heritage.  The cohesion of its diverse society is in danger.

This will have profound implications for the Syrian people, the countries of the region and for the world.

The massive destruction, the human tragedies and the abuses we are witnessing are the direct consequence of the increased and irresponsible militarization of the conflict.

Syrians need less weapons, not more.  Those who supply the Government or the armed opposition with weapons, equipment or money are creating a vicious circle of violence and are paving the way for more suffering and chaos.

Member States with influence on the Syrian Government or the opposition forces have an obligation to end the killing and promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Finally, Mr. President, we note recent calls to establish humanitarian corridors or buffer zones inside Syria where civilians could, it is argued, find relief from the violence.

Such proposals raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration.

Le peuple syrien a besoin de secours humanitaire. Mais, à terme, la crise actuelle ne pourra être résolue que par un processus politique crédible. Elle doit être soutenu par une communauté internationale unie, qui permette de mettre fin à la violence et favorise la mise en œuvre d’une transition politique menée par les Syriens eux-mêmes.

Il est temps que toutes les parties, en Syrie comme à l’étranger, fassent prévaloir les intérêts, la dignité et les droits de l’homme du peuple syrien. Ce peuple se trouve aujourd’hui en proie aux souffrances, à la désolation et aux divisions, alors qu’il n’aspire qu’à une chose: vivre en paix et jouir des droits et libertés consacrés par la Charte des Nations Unies.

Je vous remercie, Monsieur le Président.