A landmark UN Security Council resolution allowing aid to be sent across the border into Syria without the Syrian government’s consent is set to expire in January. Since 2014, these deliveries have helped millions of people living in the insurgent-infested areas in the north of the country. Failure to advance, between winter and winter and the global financial crisis, could lead to a human disaster.
Contrary to what many people think that the situation in Syria has stabilized, and that the Syrian people do not need urgent aid, the situation, especially in the northwest, has been getting worse. The Assad regime and Russia continue to restrict access to food, medicine and other essential goods. The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the global recession have exacerbated the problem. High inflation in neighboring Turkey also weighed on the region’s economy, where the Turkish lira is widely traded alongside the US dollar.
Today, nearly 4 million people in northwestern Syria are in urgent need of aid. More than 3.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are food insecure. Clean water is scarce. Infectious diseases such as cholera are spreading because families tend to spend what little money they have on food instead of cleaning things. The security situation is worsening, with clashes between armed groups, attacks by ISIL (ISIS), and government bombings. Last month, a rocket attack on the Maram IDP camp in Idlib killed at least 10 people, including children.
Despite all this, we have seen a significant reduction in humanitarian aid to Syria, first due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then the shift in international funding to the crisis in Ukraine. As a result, humanitarian organizations are struggling to keep up with the widening gap between increased needs and limited resources.
As the deadline for the renewal of cross-border aid approaches, there is a need to reconsider the way in which foreign countries provide aid to Syria. There are steps that can be taken to ensure that millions of Syrians, who have already endured years of war, do not continue to suffer.
First, it should be noted that Russia’s consent is not required to provide cross-border aid to Syria under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
Moscow has been blocking international efforts to provide aid to the besieged Syrians from the beginning. It was Russia that wanted the UN Security Council (UNSC) to review cross-border aid every six months – originally, the review was annual – and has always threatened to overturn the resolution. However under IHL, all parties to the conflict have an obligation to allow aid providers to provide the basic needs of the affected population – no one can allow them to do so.
For now, diplomatic attention is focused on ensuring the renewal of the cross-border aid resolution. But there is a need to change the way of thinking, to remember the responsibility of international countries under IHL, and to find other ways that will help the aid to continue across borders if it is not increased in January.
Several countries and international organizations are already working towards this goal. The United Kingdom, for example, has led the creation of another pool to help drive funds to international and Syrian organizations for non-renewal events in January 2023. But the UN cannot continue its support across borders. work without a resolution of the UNSC in accordance with its interpretation of what constitutes respect for the principle of state sovereignty. However, as a recent report issued by the American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS) strongly argued, UN agencies are responsible for continuing cross-border relief operations under international law. Aid to the UNSC only furthers political support for Syria.
Second, at this time, the international community should also start thinking about changing the type of aid it provides to northern Syria. Beyond efforts to address immediate humanitarian needs, parties should focus on supporting development and building capacity in the region through long-term projects that focus on stability and sustainability. This is not only about raising additional funds in needy areas, but also linking humanitarian and development projects.
Although donors, such as Norway and Switzerland, are moving towards multi-year aid and development programs in northwestern Syria, there is still much room for improvement.
Moving to a long-term strategy that supports economic recovery, increases capacity to provide services, and supports resilience would be beneficial even if the UNSC’s decision to extend the border by another six months in January would reduce regional dependence. foreign aid and long-term support. And if the decision is not extended, such an approach would be very important.
Shifting the focus of international aid to capacity building is necessary because of the possibility of a large return of Syrian refugees in the coming year.
In Turkey, where millions of Syrians are currently living, anti-refugee sentiments are growing due to the growing crisis of living conditions. Ahead of the 2023 elections, opposition parties are helping to fuel anti-refugee sentiment by pledging to repatriate Syrians in large numbers. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party also addressed the issue of refugees. Erdoğan himself spoke of plans to send at least one million refugees across the border.
The return of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees requires urgent attention from humanitarian and development organizations and donors. The increase in the demand for more money and the financial economy will make it more difficult even to improve the current low level of provision for those in need. Most of the refugees will not return to their place of origin but will become refugees in northwest Syria – a region that is increasingly experiencing economic and social crisis. There are serious issues related to safety and security that have been documented “the suppression of human rights and torture at the hands of the Syrian government and allied forces” facing people returning from Jordan and Lebanon, including continuing fighting between non-military groups. of the government in the regions. outside the jurisdiction of the government.
International and international organizations should make plans and actions to predict the number of people returning to northern Syria. States and the UN must step up their diplomatic efforts to ensure that negotiations are conducted in a manner that will allow refugees to return safely and voluntarily.
In short, after many years of failed aid, the international community has a responsibility to allow the four million people trapped in northwest Syria to meet their needs and to begin to recover.
In the short term, regardless of the future of UNSC cross-border aid, access to essential aid, especially food and water, must be guaranteed for all Syrians. This requires international media coverage and fundraising to promote donations for the Syrian crisis, which has lost public awareness due to the increasing number of international crises. In the long run, Assyrians need to be helped not to survive but to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Syrians should not be captured by politics.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect Al Jazeera’s influence.