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United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Statements

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 25 September 2013 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Informal Ministerial Consultation on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria and Neighbouring Countries [as prepared for delivery]

I welcome this important discussion, and I thank the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the European Union for hosting it.

We know the statistics all too well. 

The Syrian conflict is well into its third year. 

More than 100,000 people have died.

The daily bloodshed continues unabated. 

And, last month, we witnessed the horrific use of chemical weapons. 

You will shortly hear about the dire refugee and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis, and efforts being undertaken to respond. 

Let me offer a few brief highlights and offer some broader perspective.

Some seven million people -- nearly one-third of the population – have been displaced.

Half of those are children.

2.1 million have fled the country as refugees, imposing huge and complex strains on Syria’s neighbours.

Let me give you some snapshots of the regional impact. 

Za’atari refugee camp is now the fourth-largest city in Jordan, which has taken in more than 500,000 refugees from Syria - ten per cent of the Jordanian population.

In Lebanon, that proportion is approaching one quarter. The influx is costing billions in lost trade and tourism, and putting an unbearable burden on schools, healthcare services and the electricity and water infrastructure.  Those key sectors of society were already stretched to the limit.

In Iraq, many of the 200,000 refugees from Syria are living in towns and cities, driving rents up, and wages down, and increasing economic and sectarian tensions.

On behalf of the international community, I thank Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq for your hospitality to refugees from Syria and call on all countries to increase their support for national and international programmes.

But let us remember – the source of the problem is the situation in Syria, where the need for humanitarian assistance is acute.

More than three thousand schools and over half the country’s hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.

Human rights are routinely violated, and the brutality is increasing on all sides.

I am particularly concerned about the continued flagrant violations of international law that make it impossible to deliver life-saving assistance.

Humanitarian space is becoming ever more constrained.

Eleven UN staff and 22 staff and volunteers from our partners the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have been killed since the start of the conflict.

Many more have been injured, hijacked and kidnapped.

Humanitarian agencies have scaled up their operations in these extremely difficult conditions.  

WFP, through its partners, is delivering food for nearly 3 million people, up from 1.5 million at the beginning of the year.

UN agencies and our partners have provided 10 million people with access to safe drinking water.

A national vaccination programme supported by WHO and UNICEF has reached more than a million children.

Relief convoys have crossed conflict lines, reaching more than 2 million people since the end of January.

UN agencies and our partners have expanded our field presence to open hubs in Homs and Tartous.

National staff continue to operate from offices in Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, Qamishli, Idlib, Lattakia and Sweida.

But we face rising levels of insecurity as armed groups proliferate and set up roadblocks on major routes.

Funding is a serious problem.

As we approach the final quarter of the year, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is less than 50 per cent funded.

Some sectors are critical. For example, nutrition is less than 1 per cent funded.

Donors have been very generous to the Syrian people and I want to thank everyone here who has contributed. In particular I would like to thank Canada, the EU, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, the UK and the US, which just yesterday made an additional pledge of $340 million.

Under Secretary-General Valerie Amos is continuing to work with Security Council members to get a humanitarian resolution or Presidential Statement on Syria.

In August, on behalf of humanitarian partners, she submitted a list of key requests covering access, security and delivery of assistance.

We must renew commitments to deliver the help the people of Syria so desperately need.

The conflict is not just a tragedy for the Syrian people.

It poses serious threats to regional peace and security.

It is providing fertile ground for radical armed groups and for violent extremist ideology.

The growing sectarian nature of the conflict has undermined the longstanding co-existence of all communities.

Incitement along sectarian lines from inside and outside Syria is threatening the region as a whole.

The possibility of reprisal attacks is extremely worrying.

The Syrian Government and opposition groups in areas they control have the moral and legal responsibility to protect all civilians regardless of religion, community or ethnic affiliation.

The people of Syria urgently need a political solution. 

We must urgently focus our efforts on convening an international conference on Syria. 

The goal is a comprehensive political agreement, involving the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué and the formation, by mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.

The Secretary-General stands ready to convene this conference as soon as possible.

In this regard he looks forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry later this week, together with Joint Special Representative Brahimi, who is engaging with international and regional actors. 

We have also noted with appreciation the letter submitted by the President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition to the Security Council last week, reaffirming its willingness to engage in a future Geneva Conference and to implement the Geneva Communiqué.

The confirmed chemical weapons attack on 21 August underscores the need for a negotiated solution. 

The Secretary-General has welcomed the understanding reached in Geneva between Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry regarding the safeguarding and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. 

As he said to the General Assembly yesterday, we must build on these signs of unity to get the parties to the negotiating table.

The Secretary-General has called on Security Council members to put aside their differences and reach consensus on an enforceable resolution on chemical weapons.

This should be followed immediately by improved humanitarian action, cessation of hostilities and a political resolution to the conflict. 

We appeal to the Government of Syria, the opposition and all with influence over them, to make the Geneva II conference happen as soon as possible.

The Syrian crisis has long been a threat to international peace and security.

Let us work together to finally end this nightmare for the sake of the people of Syria, the region and the world.

Statements on 25 September 2013