Secretary-General's remarks to the informal meeting of the General Assembly on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria
New York, 25 February 2014
The scale and severity of humanitarian suffering in Syria is growing daily. Following my remarks, you will hear harrowing presentations by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Director-General of the World Health Organization and the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
We gather just three days after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that we hope will make a difference on the ground. As I said at the time of its adoption, this resolution should not have been necessary.
We need access to hundreds of thousands of people in the north-east who have received hardly any help for three years.
We need to contain the spread of polio by continuing the vaccination campaign.
Civilians who want to move freely out of conflict zones should be able to do so.
Medical centres must no longer be used to house fighters and store arms.
There must be an end to the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs and other aerial bombardments of urban centres, which are designed to terrorize civilians -- hundreds of thousands of whom have fled as a result.
The United Nations is already doing a tremendous amount to reach Syrians in need with food assistance, safe water, shelter and medicine. We are reaching millions and yet even that is not enough.
We will do everything we can to implement the new resolution and improve the humanitarian situation.
Supplies are ready to go into areas that have been hard to reach, and into the towns and cities that have been under siege.
What we need is guaranteed safe passage for humanitarian supplies along key routes. The human suffering revealed during the recent ceasefires in Homs and Yarmouk highlighted the absolute urgency of getting aid to those who desperately need it.
It is incumbent on the Syrian Government and all parties to the conflict to reach these agreements.
I call on the Syrian government to authorize more humanitarian staff and partners to work in Syria. It is not credible to cite bureaucratic procedures as reasons for delay when it is the Government itself that controls those procedures.
I call on the Government and all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. It is a basic principle and rule of war that civilians should be treated humanely. Denying access to people in urgent need of food, water or medical supplies is a fundamental denial of their rights to life and human dignity. Yet there are continued reports of sieges, massacres and atrocities. The international community is strongly committed to pursuing justice and accountability for flagrant violations.
The resolution adopted this past Saturday reflects the heightened concern of the Security Council. I will closely monitor the situation and report to the Council in less than 30 days on its implementation.
But let us remember that the resolution reflects responsibilities and obligations that are already included in the Geneva conventions and other humanitarian and human rights law.
Let us also recall that the presidential statement adopted last October did not deliver the change that was expected. On the contrary, the Government is besieging more than 200,000 civilians, while opposition groups are besieging some 45,000. Death by starvation is likely to be the result, if this continues.
I look to the General Assembly to make its unique and universal voice heard. I appeal to the international community to provide the funds needed for the response inside Syria and for those countries hosting people who have fled.
The conflict has inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Syrian people for nearly three years. Their plight must drive us to pursue an end to the conflict with renewed urgency. There must be a political transition towards a new Syria where all people and communities are guaranteed protection, rights and freedoms.
Statements on 25 February 2014