Middle East

Syria crisis: UN Security Council 'failing victims'

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Media captionThe war in Syria is difficult to solve because of its complexity, as Jeremy Bowen reports

The United Nations and a global coalition of aid agencies have accused international powers of failing the victims of the Syrian conflict.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN chief, told the BBC powerful nations had put their own interests ahead of the need to end the war.

He was responding to a joint report from humanitarian agencies, which criticised the UN Security Council.

It said civilians had experienced their "worst year" since the conflict began.

Mr Dujarric told the BBC the UN still believed in bringing about a political solution to the conflict and called on the international community to unite.

He said there had been real success in eliminating President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons and getting some humanitarian aid through but the supply of weapons to the warring parties was just making things worse.

"We have found a lack of political will to move forward in a united fashion to stop the fighting," Mr Dujarric said.

Syria's war


killed since crisis began

  • 76,000 Syrians killed in 2014 - the deadliest year

  • 4.8m people in need live in areas defined as hard to reach

  • 5.6m children in need of aid

  • 1.6m children not attending school


The Failing Syria report by agencies, including Save the Children and Oxfam, said the 15-member Security Council had not fulfilled pledges to increase aid access and alleviate suffering.

"The bitter reality is that the Security Council has failed to implement its resolutions," said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, another of the groups involved in the report.

"Parties to the conflict have acted with impunity and ignored the Security Council's demands, civilians are not protected and their access to relief has not improved," he added.

Meanwhile, the UN has drawn up plans to relocate Syrian refugees to northern Europe to alleviate pressure on southern countries.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Aid agencies say 5.6 million children are in need of aid, a 31% increase since 2013

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has approached senior EU figures to get backing for a pilot programme. EU policy currently requires refugees to apply for asylum in their country of entry.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees end up in Greece and Italy having crossed the Mediterranean but the majority move on without properly applying for asylum.

The director of the UNHCR's Europe bureau, Vincent Cochetel, told the Guardian a policy change would encourage more people to travel to other parts of Europe legally and prevent people slipping though the net.

In darkness

While vast numbers of refugees are seeking asylum in the EU, many more are still trapped in war zones in Syria.

Three Security Council resolutions passed last year called for an end to attacks on civilians and an increase in aid, and allowed the UN to operate in Syria without permission from Damascus, among other things.

The Failing Syria report says

  • People are not protected: 2014 was the deadliest year of the conflict in Syria, with at least 76,000 Syrians killed
  • Aid access has not improved: 4.8 million people in need reside in areas defined by the UN as "hard to reach", one million more than in 2013
  • Needs have increased: 5.6 million children are in need of aid, a 31% increase since 2013
  • The humanitarian response has decreased compared to needs: in 2013, 71% of the funds needed to support civilians inside Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries were provided. In 2014, this had declined to 57%

Separate analysis by another group of charities says 83% of Syria's lights visible from space have gone out.

WithSyria, a coalition of more than 100 humanitarian and human rights organisations, released satellite imagery showing that the number of lights had fallen dramatically since March 2011.

Image copyright Xi Li
Image caption Lights visible over Syria at night in March 2011
Image copyright Xi Li
Image caption Lights visible over Syria at night in February 2015

The organisations said they believed such a dramatic drop was because of a number of factors, including infrastructural damage.

The unrest in Syria began in 2011 with nationwide protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

His security forces attempted to use force to crush the dissent, with the opposition taking up arms to fight back.

Analysis: Jeremy Bowen, BBC's Middle East editor

The Failing Syria report, from leading human rights and humanitarian groups, is scathing.

Last year was the bloodiest of the war so far, and the worst for civilians. It condemns the world's most powerful countries for not having the will to apply their own UN resolutions on the free flow of humanitarian aid to the victims of the war.

Britain's former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, now head of the International Rescue Committee, said it was shocking that politicians around the world had given up on solving the Syrian crisis.

The UN and other agencies have established a massive programme of aid but donations from governments are being cut as the war drags on, at a time when needs are increasing.

The war is hard to stop because of its complexity. Foreign intervention of all kinds has deepened the fighting and what makes it all so much more cruel is that the end is nowhere in sight.

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