New York

12 March 2015

Statement by the Secretary-General on Fulfilling our Collective Responsibility on Syria

The Syrian people feel increasingly abandoned by the world as they enter the fifth year of the war that has torn their country apart.  They and their neighbours continue to suffer under the eyes of an international community, still divided and incapable of taking collective action to stop the killing and destruction.

In March 2011, thousands of Syrian civilians went to the streets peacefully calling for political reform. This legitimate demand was met with a violent response from the Syrian authorities. Over time, civilians took up arms in response, regional powers became involved and radical groups gained a foothold.

Today over 220,000 Syrians have been killed. Almost half of the country's men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes. More than 4 million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while a further 7.6 million are displaced within Syria. Every day brings more death, displacement and destruction, raising the fearsome prospect of the total collapse of this country and even more serious consequences in the region.

While global attention is rightfully focused on the threat to regional and international peace and security, which terrorist groups such as Daesh pose, our focus must continue to be with the Syrian people.  Bringing the deadly Syrian conflict to an end is imperative if we are to extinguish the fires of violent extremism and sectarianism that burn throughout the entire region.

The United Nations continues to provide daily life-saving assistance to the Syrian people. In Aleppo, Special Envoy de Mistura is tirelessly working to bring about a suspension on the use of heavy weapons so that the UN can deliver additional humanitarian assistance to the city's beleaguered population. Later this month, I will chair an International Pledging Conference in Kuwait to raise funds to help the Syrian people and countries throughout the region that are bearing the heavy burden of hosting millions of Syrian refugees. I hope that the response at the conference will be extremely generous.  I thank the Government of Kuwait for hosting the event for the third time.

Humanitarian assistance can only alleviate Syria's suffering, not stop the war. For this, a political solution to this senseless conflict is necessary. I call upon the international community to unite and lend its full support to UN efforts to forge an inclusive, Syrian-led political transition based on the Geneva Communique and which meets the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom, dignity and justice. It is also incumbent upon the Syrian parties themselves, including especially President Bashar al-Assad, to take decisive steps to end the bloodshed and to start a political process. Governments or movements that aspire to legitimacy do not massacre their own people.

The lack of accountability in Syria has led to an exponential rise in war crimes, crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. Each day brings reports of fresh horrors:  executions, widespread arbitrary arrests, abductions and disappearances  as well as systematic torture in detention; indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, including with barrel bombs; siege and starvation tactics; use of chemical weapons, and atrocities committed by Daesh and other extremist groups.

We have an obligation to the Syrian people to help ensure that serious crimes committed over the past four years do not go unpunished. The Security Council has in the past shown its ability to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria and to compel the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Syrians. I call upon the Security Council to take determined measures to resolve this crisis and on the way forward. 

Let us work together now to build a better future for the people of Syria and the region. We cannot shirk this collective responsibility.