Proposed: A Compact with the people of Syria
A UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will take place in New York on 19 September. A Declaration has already been agreed, which contains two Annexes: the first a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the second a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This note is about refugees, and with a specific focus on Syria.
Inevitably, the Declaration and the CRRF are long on rhetoric and somewhat short on specifics. Josephine Liebl has made this point in a useful overview for Oxfam. She concludes that ‘the biggest failing of the Summit will be that it won’t agree on any concrete steps for governments to share responsibility for refugees in the future. . . Without tangible commitments, how much will actually change?’.
In that spirit, I have been thinking about the need for a holistic and practical set of actions in response to the crisis in Syria. Here is a 5-point plan, which might be called a ‘compact’. It has five elements:
- Uphold the Geneva Conventions and enforce accountability for International Humanitarian Law;
- Support local peace-making and peace-building within Syria and the region;
- Guarantee standards of provision for displaced persons and refugees in the region;
- Facilitate orderly refugee flows and resettlement from the region; and
- Commit to reconstruction and rehabilitation wherever and whenever conditions permit.
There are immediate proposals embedded within the five points for action related to Syria, Some of these give substance to principles embedded in the UN Declaration. Others add new dimensions:
- An independent Commission of Enquiry or shadow ICC process on war crimes in Syria;
- Best practice guidelines and dedicated funding for local peace-building initiatives within Syria;
- Creation of an index of provision for refugees and displaced people, using the Sphere Standards;
- Immediate additional funding of $US 4bn, to cover unmet needs in 2016;
- Expanded support to ensure that Turkey meets expected standards in handling refugees, including funding, but also technical cooperation;
- Accelerate revision of the EU’s Dublin principles;
- Consider an amnesty for migrants from Syria already in Europe;
- Development of a post-war reconstruction plan for Syria, with commitments to funding; and
- A commitment that refugee costs within Europe should not be funded from aid budgets, or at least should be additional to 0.7.
President Obama will host an event following the UN High Level Meeting. Perhaps that will provide an opportunity for specific commitments to be made, in relation to Syria and more widely?
By way of a preamble to the compact, consider that
- 65m people are now forcibly displaced, of whom 21m are refugees (Figure 1). According to UNHCR, one person in every 122 in the world is now forcibly displaced. About a quarter of the total number appear to be Syrians.
- More than 250,000 people have so far arrived in Europe by sea in 2016, 30% of them Syrians. 3,000 people have died or are missing.
- With particular reference to Syria, UNOCHA reports that
- 250,000 people have died since 2011 and one million have been injured;
- 4.8 million have left the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced.
- 13.5 million people within Syria, including 6 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 600,000 in 18 besieged areas.
- It is increasingly difficult for Syrians to find safety, including by seeking asylum.
For reference, the OCHAOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN) brief on Syria is pasted in at the end (Appendix 1). I also very strongly recommend Stephen O’Brien’s powerful, moving statements to the Security Council, including this one from May, and this one from July. The July statement is pasted in at the end (Appendix 2).
It is also useful to read the UN Summit Declaration, which references many international agreements and declarations of principle, and also sets out approaches relating to; reception and admission; support for immediate and ongoing needs; support for host countries and communities; and durable solutions.
1. Uphold the Geneva Conventions and enforce accountability for International Humanitarian Law
The macro geopolitical question of how to end the war is beyond the scope of this note, but it is worth remembering that a call to prevent and end conflict was the very first item in the outcome document (actually the Chair’s Summary) of the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May:
‘Preventing and resolving conflicts would be the biggest difference leaders could make to reduce overwhelming humanitarian needs. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action. Leaders recognized this could only happen if words and good intentions were now replaced with united leadership, collective and decisive action and a genuine commitment to comply with the international frameworks countries had agreed on.’
There were more fine words on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, although weaker than the text in the Secretary General’s preparatory report, which contained specific proposals, for example on setting up a dedicated ‘watchdog’, on the need for independent and impartial commissions of enquiry, and the use of the powers of the International Criminal Court. So that readers can judge for themselves the weakening of the language, I have pasted in below the relevant section of the SG text (Appendix 3) and the Chair’s Summary (Appendix 4).
For a practical illustration of the problem, see the Save the Children Report on Childhood Under Siege, published in March 2016, which documents the problem and ends up with 15 recommendations, all of which exhort parties to the conflict, UN Member States or donors to act differently and with greater respect for International Humanitarian Law. It is hard to see much of a response.
So what is to be done? An obvious answer is that the International Criminal Court should be at the centre of any action, but it is handicapped by its limited membership. Never mind that the United States has not ratified the Rome Statute, nor have Syria, Russia, Turkey or Iran. Should there be a campaign on that? It does not help that some of the perpetrators of crimes are non-state actors.
Failing the ICC, is there an option for a UN International Criminal Tribunal, like those for Rwanda or Former Yugolsavia? These seem to require a Security Council Resolution, which might be difficult to secure. Another campaign? Or would it be better to concentrate on the ICC?
Failing an internationally agreed judicial process, other options might be to set up a shadow process, or to use other instruments. An independent watchdog under the auspices of the ICRC? Commissions of Enquiry, co-sponsored by Governments and NGOs? Coordinated parliamentary enquiries? Sanctions?
I’m sure many people are working on lists like these, building on the practical suggestions contained in the SG’s Report for the WHS. What are the best bets?
2. Support local peace-making and peace-building within Syria and the region
Above and beyond any geopolitical demarches to end conflict, it is often possible to build peace locally. Many NGOs work in different ways to support peace-making processes. Some of them specialise in this area: Saferworld is an example, though it appears to have no programme in Syria. Many NGOs incorporate peace-building into emergency or development programmes. As just one example, CARE International claims to have practical programmes in conflict-affected communities in 41 countries and says that:
‘We work with communities to ensure they have a say in peace processes, and we work with women to make sure their voices are heard and that they lead efforts to end violence and address its root causes. . .CARE supports local actors, particularly women, to build trust within and between communities. And we seek to amplify women’s voices at higher decision-making levels – national, regional and international. . . We also focus on preventing in all our work in conflict and post-conflict settings, and we provide support and counselling to women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
It is likely that the emphasis on local NGOs that was one of the main positive outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit will make local peace initiatives easier.
Official donors also work in the same space. For example, the UK’s Independent Commission on Aid Impact reviewed (and gave a generally favourable rating to) DFID’s contribution to peace building in Nepal, covering projects which ranged from rehabilitation of former child soldiers, support to elections, and access to justice (especially for women via community dispute resolution).
Is there a register of such programmes covering all NGOs? Is there best practice guidance on local peace-making projects? Has there been a systematic review? On the latter question, I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for on the DFIDDepartment for International Development Research for Development website, but I did find a link to a useful Christian Aid Ireland paper on Civil Society, Conflict Transformation and Peace Building. The abstract reads as follows:
‘This paper identifies some of the lessons learned and basic principles for Christian Aid country programmes to contribute to conflict transformation. The paper sets some guiding principles for country programmes including: the importance of power and conflict analysis; the need for on-going reflection and adaptation in order to ensure civil society programmes are conflict sensitive; the importance of developing protection strategies; the need to assess constantly how civil society is representing the most marginalised; where possible transforming conflict through their interventions; a focus on creating resilient livelihoods can address some of the unequal power dynamics in a conflict setting; having an understanding of the role and impact of violence and conflict on men and women and their role in building solutions to this, in particular it is critical not to assume stereotypical understanding of gender relations of the different roles of women and men; programmes should consider the critical role of youth in conflict transformation, particularly where young people are most affected by conflict and violence, and where they may also be the perpetrators.’
Could these principles become standard practice for all interventions in Syria and other crises? Should there be dedicated funding lines?
3. Guarantee standards of provision for displaced persons and refugees in the region
Monitoring reports by various agencies confirm the scale of need in Syria itself and among refugee communities in other countries. See, for example, the ‘Whole of Syria’ pages on the OCHAOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN) website, Humanitarian Response - which include links to the 2016 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan. A summary document is here.
The financial response to the Syria still falls well below the level required, despite commitments made at the Syria Conference in London in February 2016. On current (mid-August) OCHA figures, only 33% of the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016 has been funded, and only 47% of the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP): Figure 2. Donors appear to be moving slowly to disburse pledges made towards to the $US 12 bn pledged at the Syria Conference: according to Concern UK, only $1.16bn of the $6bn pledged for 2016 had been disbursed by May, though other pledges have been delivered since. Current funding, by donor, can be found through the Financial Tracking Service. Oxfam have carried out valuable analysis of whether countries have (or in many cases have not) funded their fair share of the overall burden.
Many issues arise in relation to the overall response, in addition to the level of funding – for example about refugees’ right to work in countries like Turkey, or the potential for job creation in countries like Jordan. As another example, there is an active debate about the use of cash or vouchers rather than the distribution of commodities.
More generally, it would be helpful to have a set of standards against which provision can be measured. One such could be the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and standards. This includes basic principles on protection of people affected by war or disaster, and specific minimum standards on
- water supply, sanitation and hygiene;
- food security and nutrition;
- shelter, settlement and non-food items; and
- health action.
For example, as regards water supply, ‘average water use for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene in any household should be at least 15 litres per person per day’; or, with respect to food security, ‘all the disaster-affected people in need of food security responses receive assistance that meets their primary needs, prevents erosion of their assets, gives them choice and promotes their dignity.’
A concrete idea. Would it not be useful to construct an index of provision, for crises as a whole, as well as for sub-divisions of geography or demography, that makes use of the Sphere standards?
And, of course, it goes without saying, that funding gaps need to be filled. There is an unmet need of $4bn in 2016.
4. Facilitate orderly refugee flows and resettlement from the region
This is another complex topic, driven by compassion, beset with philosophical dilemmas, but also requiring highly practical policy engagement. David Miller provides a useful review of the issue in IPPR’s Juncture: he emphasises the moral obligation to provide protection, but also the need to set limits on the numbers taken in by individual countries, and on refugees’ ability to choose where to find asylum.
Refugees in Turkey
The status and safety of 2.7 million Turkish refugees in Turkey is the most difficult issue. The deal reached between the EUEuropean Union and Turkey in March 2016 (reproduced in Appendix 5) provides for ‘irregular migrants’ reaching Greece from Turkey after 20 March to be returned to Turkey, with an equivalent number accepted into the EUEuropean Union under UNHCR Vulnerability Criteria. The agreement is clear that ‘this will take place in full accordance with EUEuropean Union and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion. All migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement.’ But is this standard being met?
On the one hand, a very large humanitarian operation takes place in Turkey, led by the Turkish Government with international support. The background documentation and monitoring reports for 3RP detail the scale. The 2016 mid-year report, published in June, has a chapter (Pgs 40-42) covering Turkey). No detailed breakdown of coverage appears to be available for Turkey, though the UNHCR reports regularly on its activities. At regional level, the latest 3RP progress report shows that 91% of Syrian refugees have updated registration records and that over 2 million people are receiving food assistance, including via cash and vouchers. Other basic needs are also covered (Figure 3). Turkey has adopted a new Regulation on Work Permit of Refugees Under Temporary Protection, granting all beneficiaries of the Temporary Protection (namely Syrians) access to formal employment. President Erdogan has also said Turkey will open a route to citizenship for Syrian refugees. If Turkey is ‘safe’ then Paul Collier is right to say that people boarding boats transform themselves ‘from refugees into migrants’.
On the other hand, independent analysts have raised questions about Turkey’s ability to handle refugee numbers. Amnesty has declared the EUEuropean Union agreement illegal, because Turkey is unable to process large refugee numbers, provide adequate subsistence, or offer ‘durable solutions’. A Greek immigration tribunal has ruled that Tukey is not a safe country to which to return refugees.
On this basis, it looks like Turkey needs a major boost to its capacity, covering the majority of refugees who live within host communities, as well as the minority living in official refugee camps (according to 3RP, 2.45 million out of the 2.7 expected in 2016 fall into the former category). The numbers continue to grow. According to UNHCR data from the beginning of the year, an average of 500 people a day were arriving across official crossing points. The crisis in Aleppo may have boosted those numbers. The boost to Turkey’s capacity will require funding, but probably also further legislative changes as well as personnel. Should this be a major EUEuropean Union programme?
Reform of the Dublin Regulation
Within the EU, the EUEuropean Union refugee quota system, designed to share 160,000 refugees among EUEuropean Union countries, is meeting strong resistance, especially in Central Europe.
‘The new system will automatically establish when a country is handling a disproportionate number of asylum applications. It will do this by reference to a country's size and wealth. If one country is receiving disproportionate numbers above and beyond that reference (over 150% of the reference number), all further new applicants in that country will (regardless of nationality) be relocated, after an admissibility verification of their application, across the EUEuropean Union until the number of applications is back below that level. A Member State will also have the option to temporarily not take part in the reallocation. In that case, it would have to make a solidarity contribution of €250,000 for each applicant for whom it would otherwise have been responsible under the fairness mechanism, to the Member State that is reallocated the person instead.’
Further proposals are intended to: establish a fair and efficient common EUEuropean Union procedure (including simplifying and shortening asylum procedures); harmonise protections standards and rights; and establish dignified and harmonised reception conditions throughout the EU.
One strand of the resettlement debate is the application of UNHCR resettlement categories. The UK opted out of the Syria quota arrangement, with a promise instead to resettle 20,000 refugees who meet resettlement criteria. The UNHCR estimated (June 2015) that there were 1.1 million people around the world who qualified for resettlement, of whom 370,000 in the Middle East and North Africa Region. There are seven resettlement categories, viz: Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs; Survivors of Violence and/or Torture; Medical Needs; Women and Girls at Risk; Family Reunification; Children and Adolescents at Risk; and Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions. An unsettling thought is that if Turkey is really deemed to be unsafe, then the 2.7 million refugees currently in Turkey could all qualify for resettlement.
Refugees and migrants already in Europe
Problems with the current system are reflected in the processing delays in Greece, but also in problems at borders (e.g. France-Italy) and in Calais. In their latest update, Save the Children provide a detailed country-by-country review, including with respect to 5-600 unaccompanied children in Calais. They have their own five point plan, including regional response, search and rescue, clearing of routes, reception and resettlement. They note that over 1,000 Syrians (500 children) have been resettled in the UK in 2015 from the region. Further admissions will be made in response to the Dubs amendment, finally passed in modified form (and without specific reference to numbers) in May 2016 – though a debate continues about numbers, timing and procedures. The House of Commons debate on the Dubs amendment illustrates many of the concerns – both the urgency of action, but also issues about the perverse incentives that might be created, both for migrants and traffickers.
For a historical perspective on how to resolve these issues, Nick Pearce has recommended ‘dusting off the Sangatte playbook’ from 2002: do a deal with the French government; bring in the UNHCR to register migrants; offer those seeking refugee protection a proper process for applying in France or access to places on the UK’s refugee resettlement programme; and give those with family members in the UK a 'work visa', enabling them to work without recourse to public funds. This was accompanied by tightening border controls.
5. Commit to reconstruction and rehabilitation wherever and whenever conditions permit
There has been little discussion of reconstruction and rehabilitation needs, which will doubtless be enormous. Have donors made sufficient provision? The Marshall Plan after World War II transferred the equivalent of $US 130bn (in 2006 dollars) to Europe between 1947-1952. Germany alone received the equivalent of $US 14.5 bn. The US is said to have spent more on the reconstruction of Afghanistan than on the whole Marshall Plan (though mostly on security). So what mind of bill might be expected for Syria? Who will meet it? With what combination of grants and loans? And with what aid modalities? Perhaps donors think that gas reserves will pay for reconstruction.
Three final points.
First, it will be important to recognise other crises, including the 75% of the displaced people in Figure 1 who are not Syrian, as well as crises not involving displacement. Iraq and Yemen both qualify alongside Syria as ‘L3 emergencies’, the most severe and large scale humanitarian crises. There are many others, including South Sudan, El Nino related events in Africa, and natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. A long-standing issue in emergency and humanitarian work is the uneven allocation of funds, and the neglect of forgotten emergencies. This needs a review.
Second, non-refugee migrants. It is not realistic to think that more aid will eliminate migrant flows; there is little evidence for this. Indeed, Michael Clemens concludes from a literature review that ‘emigration generally rises with economic development – at least until countries reach upper-middle income level, like Algeria or El Salvador, Only thereafter, as countries become even richer, do emigration rates typically fall’. The EU approach is to agree Mobility Partnerships (MPs) and Common Agendas on Migration and Mobility (CAMMs). Mobility Partnerships are mainly used for neighbourhood countries, whereas CAMMs are mainly used for other third countries. and have Mobility Partnerships and and Ethiopia have Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility. As an example, the Ethiopia CAMMwill involve cooperation on issues of international protection and refugees' needs, legal migration and mobility, irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking in human beings and development policy. Funding will be made available for implementation of concrete activities, notably through the EUEuropean Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. More money will almost certainly be needed.
Third, the cost of funding first year refugee costs in host countries from aid budgets has risen sharply – reaching $12 bn or 9.1% of oda in 2015. Humanitarian aid also rose in 2015, by 11% to $13.6bn. Refugee costs amounted to as much as 34% of Sweden’s oda, 27% of Austria’s, 26% of Italy’s and 23% of Netherlands’. However, oda rose in some countries, to compensate wholly or partly for refugee costs. This was the case, for example, in Austria, Germany, Greece, Slovenia, and Sweden. Overall, the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) concludes that ‘The rise in refugee costs did not significantly eat into development programmes, with around half of donor countries using money from outside their aid budgets to cover refugee costs’. There are exceptions, however, and evidence that development programmes are being affected in some countries e.g. the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. If the migrant crisis can be manged, these burdens on aid budgets will diminish over time. If not . . . In an ideal world, the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) rules would be changed, so that first year refugee costs are treated as ‘non-DACable’. Alternatively, donors could be asked to commit that refugee costs will be charged to aid budgets as a supplement only when 0.7 has been reached.
OCHA Brief on Syria
Syria is one of the most complex and dynamic humanitarian crises in the world today. Since March 2011, over a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed and over one million have been injured. 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country, and 6.5 million are internally displaced, making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally.
In 2016, an estimated 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of these 5.47 million people are in hard-to-reach areas, including close to 600,000 people in 18 besieged areas.
According to current figures, 11.5 million Syrians require health care, 13.5 million need protection support and 12.1 million require water and sanitation, while 5.7 million children need education support, including 2.7 million who are out of school in Syria and across the region. About 2.48 million people are food insecure, while more than 1.5 million need shelter and household goods.
Syria's development situation has regressed almost by four decades. Four out of five Syrians now live in poverty. Since the crisis began in 2011, life expectancy among Syrians has dropped by more than 20 years, while school attendance has dropped over 50 per cent, with more than 2 million children now out of school. Syria has also seen reversals in all 12 Millennium Development Goal indicators. The Syrian economy has contracted by an estimated 40 per cent since 2011, leading to the majority of Syrians losing their livelihoods.
Humanitarian access to people in need in Syria remains constrained by ongoing conflict, shifting frontlines, administrative and bureaucratic hurdles, violence along access routes and general safety and security concerns in contravention of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law. While the cessation of hostilities, since 27 February 2016, is a welcome improvement and enabled some temporary aid, those in besieged and hard-to-reach areas need regular and sustained assistance.
These difficulties have resulted in a marked decline in the number of newly arriving registered refugees and in their ability to access international protection.
Stephen O’Brien statement to Security Council, 25 July 2016
USG/ERC Stephen O'Brien's statement on Syria to the Security Council
Every time I have briefed this Council, I have described the horrors of a brutal conflict characterized by the complete failure to protect civilians, which has generated gargantuan levels of suffering for most civilians. Truth be told, words are not adequate to depict the grim and gruesome reality for the people of Syria today. We have seen the hopes of ordinary Syrians for an end to their nightmare raised and then dashed time and again as the Government, non-State armed groups, and terrorist groups have relentlessly continued on a military path that has further devastated cities, towns, communities, and families. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently said, “The number of war crimes already committed surpasses our worst nightmares”.
Fighting and violence have escalated across several parts of the country over the last few weeks resulting in widespread civilian deaths, injury and displacement. Strikes, by all sides, continue to be launched on and from heavily populated areas from air and ground without regard for civilian presence. Attacks on other civilian infrastructure remain an almost daily occurrence in some areas. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report indicated that healthcare is attacked in Syria more than any other place on earth.
The undeniable fact is that, today, in many places, civilians in Syria are as much at risk as they have ever been, due to the parties’ continuing blatant disregard for international humanitarian law, whose primary and overarching principle, as advocated by but also supposedly enforced by the Security Council, is under the obligation to protect civilians from the effects of armed conflict.
I am deeply alarmed by the disturbing developments in and around Aleppo city. Hundreds of mortars, missiles and projectiles were launched on both eastern and western Aleppo in past weeks, resulting in scores of deaths and hundreds of injuries. Since 7 July, civilian, humanitarian and commercial movements in and out of eastern Aleppo city have come to a halt. Castello Road, the last remaining access route in and out of the east of the city as I alerted you in my two previous briefings, where an estimated 250,000-275,000 people reside, has now been cut off due to fighting. The United Nations and our partners pre-positioned stocks in sad, but all too real, anticipation of such developments; food in east Aleppo is expected to run out by the middle of next month. While medical supplies are available for a longer period, I am extremely worried about the continuing attacks on medical facilities in eastern Aleppo, such as a hospital in Al-Maadi neighbourhood which has now been hit three times in the last month alone. Indeed, over the last 48 hours, we have received reports – in the process of being verified – of attacks on or near several facilities in Aleppo city and countryside. These attacks have a devastating multiplier effect, not only killing people and destroying facilities, but leaving thousands unable to get even basic care at a time when they need it most.
I cannot stress enough how critical the situation is for those trapped in eastern Aleppo city. This population is at serious risk of besiegement as the fighting closes in and their access to basic necessities runs out. Our highest priority is to ensure access through both cross-line or cross-border operations under the Security Council’s existing Resolutions so that we can replenish stocks and ensure people’s access to the basic necessities of life. The international community simply cannot let eastern Aleppo city become yet another – and by far the largest - besieged area. This is medieval and shameful. We must not allow this to happen. But, the clock is ticking. I urgently call on the parties, and those with influence, to act now to establish a weekly, 48-hour humanitarian pause for eastern Aleppo city so that the UN and partners have safe, regular and sustained access to the quarter of a million people trapped behind the front lines. This must be a full United Nations call – not just from me as the UN’s humanitarian chief – this has to come from you, the Security Council.
I am equally alarmed by reports of deteriorating humanitarian conditions and urgent medical evacuation needs in Madaya, Foah, Zabadani and Kefraya, where over 62,000 people are and continue to be besieged. Despite approvals granted by the Government of Syria over the last three months for the UN and humanitarian partners to provide assistance to besieged civilians in the Four Towns, the UN and partners have not been able to access the towns because of tension amongst parties to the agreement, heavy aerial bombardment in Idlib, and shelling on Foah and Kefraya.
We should all remember the disturbing images of starving children in Madaya earlier this year, many of whom have died even after aid was finally allowed in. Let me be clear: we will see such images again unless the parties enable immediate and unconditional humanitarian deliveries to the Four Towns. This is no hollow warning – this is highly likely to occur again unless you enforce access.
Urgent medical evacuations must also be immediately available where needed. The current tit-for-tat arrangement - which has led to children dying in one of the towns because there is no equally sick child in another location to evacuate at exactly the same time - should be a shameful blot on the conscience of the parties and those who support them. In any event such a callous tit-for-tat arrangement is not in compliance with international humanitarian law – the only measure for humanitarian access and action is to meet needs, not reciprocity. I call on all parties to allow the sick and wounded to exit the Four Towns and all other besieged areas to get the medical care they need to survive and put an end to the tit-for-tat approach. Medical evacuations are not a question of politics or military advantage, but of basic humanity.
I have highlighted Aleppo city and the Four Towns today, but you will find similar conditions in many more places: the tens of thousands trapped and exposed to fighting in Menbij with no humanitarian support or the reports of dozens of civilians killed in strikes in Tokhar in rural Aleppo; the continued bombardment of Douma, Darayya and Khan El-Shieh in Rural Damascus; and relentless ISIL attacks on the besieged parts of Deir ez-Zor city. I am also gravely concerned about the situation at the Berm along the Jordanian border, where the number of people, seeking shelter from the fighting inside Syria, has increased exponentially in recent months. The vast majority of those stranded are children, women, elderly people, as well as those in need of medical care, including hundreds of pregnant women. It is baking hot, totally arid, a no-man’s land of a barely living hell.
The fact is, Mr. President, that across Syria, around 5.5 million people are in need in hard-to-reach and besieged areas with little physical protection and limited access to basic life-saving assistance. Of that number, some 590,000 people remain totally trapped in besieged areas.
Let me take a moment to describe what it is actually like to live in these areas. Most of these people are completely desperate for an escape from the constant fighting, shelling and snipers that engulf their lives. Parents have no food for their near starving children. Malnutrition so severe, that children die as a result. No running water or electricity. Prices for the little commodities that reach these areas are dozens of times higher than in neighbouring communities and thus simply not affordable for those already reduced to nothing. They are places with little education, where sexual violence, child recruitment and early marriage are commonplace. Imagine a place where a pregnant woman cannot give birth safely because she cannot receive the necessary pain killers or care that is needed. Places where those fortunate enough to find care all too often die in their beds when their medical facility is hit. And yes, in Syria, unspeakable sexual crimes against children – it’s abhorrent and on our collective watch.
When you look beyond the numbers, Mr. President, this is the reality that people are facing in these areas day in and day out. It is not the fighters or those at checkpoints who are suffering and dying in such ways. It is the civilian population, the most vulnerable, children, women, disabled and the elderly. These are indisputable facts. And they speak for themselves. Surely none of us, none of you are immune to these horrors that constitute daily life for so many of our fellow human beings who just happen to have been Syrian, in Syria, when their world exploded around and over them over 5 years ago.
The life or death situation in many parts of the country is exactly why we press from every possible angle to get regular and sustained access to all besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
It is true that some progress has been made this year. Overall, we have now reached over one million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. We have reached each besieged area at least once this year, including 400,000 of the 590,000 people living in besieged areas; including through on-going airdrops to 110,000 people in Deir-ez-Zor city. Significant progress was made on approvals by the Government of Syria for the July inter-agency convoy plan, with 34 out of 35 locations approved for convoys, including, for the first time, all requested besieged areas with the full package of assistance. These breakthroughs - however incremental - are proof that when there is enough political will, it is really possible to reach people in desperate need of life-saving assistance. I thank those with influence on the parties for bringing their weight to bear on the issue, especially recent initiatives by the United States and the Russian Federation, not least the Russian Federation’s Ambassador and his team in Damascus.
At the same time, we have to recognize the enormous access challenges still in front of us. The escalation of fighting and insecurity continues to further constrain access. Beyond Aleppo and the Four Towns, we have seen this very clearly in July, as even with Government of Syria approvals, we have been unable to reach many other locations, such as Darayya and Douma, due to bombing and shelling and fighting along key access roads. UN and partners cross-border operations from Turkey and Jordan have also been affected by insecurity along border areas and key access routes, affecting our ability to reach tens of thousands of people.
Arbitrary restrictions and obstructions continue to limit or obstruct where we deliver aid, to whom and how often. Notwithstanding the high level of approvals for the July inter-agency convoy plan, the Syrian authorities only authorized us to deliver to 75% of the UN’s estimated population in these areas. The team on the ground continue to press for the delivery of aid based on independent UN needs assessments, as called for by this Council in its resolutions
Even when approvals are granted and the large amount of paperwork is completed, permits given by the Government centrally do not always translate down to their security forces. In particular, despite repeated calls for the free passage of all medicines and surgical equipment in aid convoys, from this Council and others, medical and surgical items continue to be excluded or removed from midwifery kits, paediatric kits, and diarrhoeal disease sets, depriving thousands of people each month. This deliberate denial of essential medicine and surgical equipment undermines the very basis of humanitarian action.
Meanwhile, some non-State armed groups have also attacked, threatened and refused to cooperate with humanitarian workers. And sustained UN access to areas under the control of ISIL – such as parts of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor governorates - remains extremely limited.
Throughout Syria, UN agencies and NGONon-governmental organisation partners continue their tireless efforts to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the Syrian population often at great personal risk. We saw this first hand on 29 June, when during a convoy to Arbeen and Zamalka, one of the drivers of a supply truck was shot in the chest and another round struck an armoured vehicle. I would like to recognise the bravery of those who risk their lives every time they cross conflict lines, borders, or enter active conflict areas to provide much needed life-saving assistance to those in need and to remind those who sometimes carp that gaining the Government of Syria’s permission is the only way to mitigate these live and present mortal dangers to our brave UN colleagues and their partners, many of them local Syrians.
Collectively, through these efforts, we are reaching millions of people per month through regular programming, cross-border and cross-line activities, as well as air operations. It is vital that all humanitarian organizations, personnel and other assets– no matter where they are based, where they are operating, or how they deliver assistance in Syria – are provided all necessary protection by all parties to the conflict, as afforded under international humanitarian law.
Let me be frank: we need to urgently regain the momentum on protection and access. The momentum created in the first half of the year, and since the creation of the ISSG Humanitarian Task Force, must be the platform for a step change in the protection and access situation for civilians into the second half of the year. This must include:
- A restoration and consolidation of the cessation of hostilities; an end to indiscriminate attacks that recklessly kill and injure civilians. It is well within the power of all parties – and those who back them – to minimize civilian casualties and avoid further crimes and atrocities. They must do so. Civilians and civilian infrastructure are not pawns to be sacrificed, but are specially protected under international law.
- All necessary action from the parties and their supporters to ensure safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional access. This must include humanitarian truces and pauses in the fighting so that we can reach those civilians trapped behind the front lines and they can reach life-saving services not available in their areas. Better still, of course, is for all the fighting to stop.
- An immediate end to the sieges which still collectively punish hundreds of thousands of civilians mercilessly. Anything less than the full lifting of the sieges will never be enough and we cannot pretend otherwise.
I will close by repeating what I and my colleagues have said many times: this crisis must end with a political solution, not a military victory. But, make no mistake as to the current humanitarian trajectory: despite some sentiment and even rhetoric within the international community, the available protection space is shrinking; humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising. These cannot, must not become accepted trends to which the international community seemingly resigns itself as the search for a political solution continues. The international community has shown unity of purpose before and must show it again, before it’s too late and we face the prospect of losing another generation of Syrians to conflict and misery.
Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity
(Extract from ‘Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action’, Chair’s Summary of the World Humanitarian Summit)
‘Enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict was at the very heart of the Summit, recognizing that the fundamental norms embodied in international humanitarian and human rights law provide a universal safeguard to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict. State, civil society, faith-based organizations and humanitarian leaders repeatedly stated that international humanitarian and human rights law are more relevant than ever: they are the last protection against barbarity.
Many leaders agreed to champion international humanitarian law and human rights law and uphold them, even when others erode them. Many State leaders and representatives of civil society expressed support for a robust global effort to enhance respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
Global leaders announced significant commitments to enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law through a spectrum of concrete measures, including by training armed forces, adopting national legislation, ratifying core international treaties, advocating their universalization, as well as increasing education and awareness-raising. A number of participants pledged national measures to enhance the protection of women and girls against sexual and gender-based violence. Some leaders expressed support for improved monitoring and reporting of violations, as well as for the intergovernmental process on strengthening respect for international humanitarian law, facilitated by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Various participants pledged to continue to train non State armed groups to adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law and monitor their implementation.
- Participants recognized the urgent need for concrete measures to reduce civilian casualties in the conduct of hostilities. A number of leaders pledged to continue to support the collection of data on the harm to civilians caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and on good practices and lessons learned in minimizing impacts on civilians when using such weapons in populated areas. Some participants also announced commitments to strengthen mine action, both during and after conflict. Leaders also pledged to promote the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, as well as the Safe Schools Declaration. A number of participants expressed support for the UN Plan of Action for the Protection of Journalists and called for the creation of national mechanisms to monitor threats against them.
- Participants underscored that the denial of humanitarian access prevents an effective response to humanitarian needs and deprives people of human dignity. Unfettered humanitarian access is imperative, and humanitarian principles must be upheld and promoted with the utmost urgency. A number of participants called for more systematic approaches to monitoring and responding to access constraints. Civil society shared practical examples of how to overcome impediments to principled humanitarian relief operations. Faith-based organizations pledged their support to use their influence and networks to raise awareness and advocate for compliance with international humanitarian law.
- Leaders, civil society and humanitarian organizations expressed outrage at attacks committed against hospitals, patients, and medical and humanitarian workers who risk their lives to bring relief and care to people in need. Participants pledged to raise awareness of the duty to protect and build trust in health-care personnel. In addition, a similar declaration to the Safe Schools Declaration was proposed to spare medical facilities from military use.
- National legislation to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, mutual legal assistance to hold perpetrators accountable for the most serious crimes, and increased access to justice for victims of sexual violence were among the commitments announced as important practical steps being taken to strengthen accountability and bring an end to impunity. A number of participants expressed support for the Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and for restraint in exercising Security Council veto power where a mass atrocity has been ascertained. There was wide agreement that unless we hold perpetrators to account, there will be no stopping a downward spiral.’
Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity
(Extract from ‘One Humanity: Shared Responsibility’, Report of the Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit)
Even wars have limits: minimizing human suffering and protecting civilians require strengthened compliance with international law.
46. Over the past 150 years and in the past two decades in particular, we have invested considerable effort and political will in strengthening the international legal frameworks governing the rules of war, promoting the protection of civilians, restricting the use and transfer of certain arms and ammunition, setting up human rights monitoring mechanisms and establishing courts to address the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Human rights advocacy and the protection of civilians are now a universal affair. Yet, our global landscape is still blighted with the brazen and brutal erosion of respect for international human rights and humanitarian law. Every day, civilians are deliberately or indiscriminately injured and killed. Air strikes rip families apart. Women and girls are abused and sold as sexual slaves. Populations in besieged areas are deliberately starved, intimidated and deprived of essential goods for years. Journalists are detained or killed. Schools, hospitals and places of worship are bombed with alarming frequency and at alarming levels. Monuments that have stood as emblems of culture and civilization for millenniums are deliberately reduced to rubble. The brutality of today’s armed conflicts and the utter lack of respect for the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law on care for the wounded and sick, humane treatment and the distinction between civilians and combatants threaten to unravel 150 years of achievements and cause a regression to an era of war without limits.
47. Urban areas have become death traps for thousands of civilians. Air strikes labelled as “surgical” end up causing indiscriminate casualties and destruction. An appalling 92 per cent of people killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. Cluster munitions continue to maim, kill and devastate even years after hostilities are over, with children making up half of those killed and injured. In 2014, 80 per cent of recorded landmine and explosive remnant of war casualties were civilian, with an incidence rate of 10 casualties per day. Humanitarian and health-care workers are kidnapped and killed and medical facilities and ambulances looted and destroyed as a tactic of warfare. The denial and deliberate obstruction of access for humanitarian relief operations only exacerbates death, suffering and vulnerabilities. People continue to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, ill-treated and tortured, often without safeguards or access to justice and effective remedies. All this violence is directly fuelled by irresponsible and illicit arms transfers. The result is an indictment of our common humanity: people fleeing the horrors of war and abuse across seas and deserts, often in dehumanizing conditions and, in many cases, without any prospect of return. At the end of 2014, almost 60 million people were forcibly displaced, either within their country or across borders.
48. Flouting the most basic rules governing the conduct of war has become contagious, creating further risks that their application will be reinterpreted and blurred. The failure to demand and promote respect for our shared norms, enforce the law and support or cooperate with national and international monitoring and accountability mechanisms contributes to the erosion of the rule of law and brings about great human suffering. When States disrespect or undermine international humanitarian and human rights law, including through expansive interpretations, other States and non-State actors regard it as an invitation to do the same. A global society without a common adherence to rules and norms surely cannot be our goal. Indifference and inertia cannot be our mantra. We can, and we must, do better.
49. Member States must seize the opportunity of the World Humanitarian Summit to recommit to protecting civilians and the human rights of all by respecting the rules that they have already agreed upon. Ensuring the centrality of p rotection and preserving the humanity and dignity of affected people in all circumstances must drive our individual and collective action. Our commitment, strategies, activities and resources must be geared towards preserving the safety, physical integrity and dignity of affected people. We can start by taking action to ensure humanitarian access, identify and speak out about violations, improve compliance and accountability and affirm the norms that safeguard our humanity.
Respect and protect civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of hostilities
Uphold the cardinal rules
50. All State and non-State parties to armed conflict must comply with the customary rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions. Attacks directed against civilians, persons hors de combat and civilian objects, the use of indiscriminate means such as improvised explosive devices and the use of civilians to shield military objectives are all prohibited. Schools, hospitals, places of worship and other critical civilian infrastructure must be spared not only from military force, but also from military use. Through legislation, military manuals and procedures and other measures, States must limit the military use of such places so that they are not rendered military objectives.
51. State and non-State parties must refrain from expansive and contentious interpretations that dangerously expand the range of weapons, tactics, targets and incidental civilian casualties considered permissible. They must repel any inclination to broaden or blur the rules and, instead, apply the law with the requirements of humanity in mind. Counter-terrorism efforts, asymmetric warfare and the emergence of new threats and enemies cannot legitimize the loosening, or the outright dismissal, of rules that are aimed at sparing civilians and limiting harm to what is necessary to weaken the enemy. At a time when most conflicts are non-international, it is critical for impartial humanitarian actors to engage in dialogue with States as well as non-State armed groups to enhance their acceptance, understanding and implementation of obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
Cease bombing and shelling populated areas
52. Whether by shelling, aerial bombardment or suicide or car bombs, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the primary killer of civilians in conflict. The effects of such weapons are widely known. Those who plan or decide to launch barrel bombs, mortars, rockets or other explosives with wide-area effects into urban areas can easily anticipate that they will cause excessive harm and destruction by killing large numbers of civilians, destroying homes, severely hindering critical services and leaving behind explosive remnants of war for years. While the use of many of such weapons is not per se prohibited by international law, the cardinal rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions circumscribe the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and must always inform military planning and decision-making.
53. Firm political commitments to constrain the use of such weapons are an essential step. States should improve, collect and exchange good policies, practices and lessons learned on minimizing impacts on civilians and on practical measures that civilians in exposed areas can take to protect against explosive weapons. Experts should simulate their effects in urban areas and make the results available for all military forces. Targets and indicators are needed to monitor progress in reducing their humanitarian impact in populated areas. The reckless bombardment and shelling of civilian neighbourhoods must be consistently recorded, investigated and referred to relevant national and international courts
Ensure full access to and the protection of humanitarian and medical missions
Meet the essential needs of the population
54. States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction. Parties to armed conflict have the obligation to meet the essential needs for food, water, medical care and shelter of persons living under their control. Affected people have a right to receive assistance, including from impartial humanitarian organizations. This is a core obligation of parties to conflict and a fundamental prerequisite of humanity. Where people’s essential needs are not being met, parties to armed conflict have an obligation to allow and facilitate access for impartial humanitarian assistance. This is not a mere technical requirement. It is essential to save lives and reduce suffering and must always override the political interests of parties to armed conflict and their allies. Denying humanitarian access to besieged areas in order to achieve military gains is deplorable and against the law.
55. The humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence are central to obtaining access to populations in need. Ensuring that all humanitarian assistance is impartial, neutral and independent from military interventions or political agendas is critical for humanitarian organizations to earn trust and acceptance among State and non-State armed groups and to gain and maintain access and operate in safety.
56. Under international humanitarian law, organizations that are impartial and humanitarian are entitled to offer their services. Yet, in today’s reality, many humanitarian organizations struggle daily to gain access to people in need. States do not enjoy unfettered discretion to turn down offers of humanitarian assistance if persons are in need of relief. Whenever the essential needs of civilians are not being met, the States concerned must not arbitrarily withhold consent to humanitarian relief operations. The onus for securing access cannot rest solely on humanitarian actors, and States should justify any refusal of relief. Mechanisms to verify and inspect humanitarian convoys can be useful in overcoming reticence about allowing access for humanitarian relief. State and non-State parties must ensure freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel and adopt clear, simple and expedited procedures to facilitate their rapid and unimpeded access. States, and the Security Council in particular, play a critical role in ensuring humanitarian access. Where access to people in need is arbitrarily denied or hindered, such acts must be effectively addressed at the highest political level. States and the Council must ensure accountability and work to overcome instances of arbitrary denial of access.
57. Member States and the Security Council should also ensure that counterterrorism or counter-insurgency measures do not inhibit humanitarian action or prevent funding for humanitarian operations. Measures should include the necessary exemptions to allow humanitarian organizations to engage in dialogue and coordinate with all parties to armed conflict in order to reach those in need and alleviate suffering.
Respect and protect humanitarian and medical missions
58. The delivery of food, water, medicine, essential health-care services and shelter to civilians in need demands the highest respect and protection from the effects of hostilities. Yet, all too frequently, health-care practitioners, facilities, and patients are attacked, humanitarian workers killed and convoys looted, often as a tactic of war. We must do much more to reverse that deplorable trend. We must redouble our efforts to remind all State and non-State parties to armed conflict that they are bound by a strict obligation to respect and protect humanitarian and medical health-care workers and facilities, as well as the wounded and sick, against attacks, threats or other violent acts that prevent them from fulfilling their exclusively humanitarian function. In fulfilling their obligation to protect humanitarian and health-care personnel and facilities, States and other parties to conflict must ensure that all context-specific political, legal, social and safety measures are put in place and strictly adhered to in order to protect humanitarian and medical personnel and facilities. Hospitals must be sanctuaries in wartime. The enactment and enforcement of domestic laws and regulations, education and training, cooperation with local communities, and the systematic collection and reporting of data on violations will help to enhance the delivery and safety of humanitarian and medical assistance.
Speak out on violations
59. Remaining silent while serious violations of international law are unfolding is morally unacceptable and undermines the legal obligations of States. Our common humanity demands that we do everything we can to prevent and end violations and hold perpetrators accountable. Gathering facts, taking preventive and protective action, including speaking out against violations, recognizing the suffering of victims and advocating for proactive solutions are among the most basic duties owed to people enduring the effects of armed conflict.
Seek the facts
60. States must seize upon every available tracking, investigative, reporting and decision-making mechanism to enhance compliance with international humanitarian law. Tools must be in place to systematically track, collate, analyse, report and, where necessary, investigate the use of certain weapons and tactics of war, civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects and to prosecute serious violations. Options include recording and sharing digital evidence of crimes, a central register for tracking and recording violations or a dedicated “watchdog” to systematically track, collect data and report on trends of violations, gaps in compliance, accountability and State cooperation in all conflicts. Reliable data and information, even from public sources, not only reveal trends, threats and vulnerabilities, but are a powerful driver of respect and compliance with international law. Most importantly, reliable data and information can promote early and effective preventive and protective action. Journalists, human rights defenders and civil society can all play an important role in reporting facts as they happen.
61. Where national fact-finding endeavours are insufficient, the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, and States, including those party to armed conflict, should mandate independent and impartial commissions of inquiry to assist the international community in ascertaining the facts and recommending the way forward in protecting rights. States should also make use of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission’s role of enquiry into serious violations of international humanitarian law in all types of armed conflict and strive to make its findings available to affected parties.
Systematically condemn serious violations
62. Whenever serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law occur, Governments, global leaders and other relevant individuals must systematically condemn them. Even where we may not be able to stop violence and suffering immediately, we have a minimum responsibility to speak out and ensure that the facts are known. The experience of the United Nations has shown that speaking up earlier usually strengthens its role. In the context of my Human Rights Up Front initiative, I have asked all United Nations senior officials to do so and I encourage all United Nations staff to act with moral courage in the face of early, serious and large-scale violations. I also exhort all relevant actors and stakeholders to end the double standard of condemning the violations of some but not of others. This weakens the collective resolve to prevent conflicts and our credibility in demanding compliance with the law.
Take concrete steps to improve compliance and accountability
Ensure respect through spheres of influence
63. All States must use their political and economic leverage to ensure that parties to armed conflict comply with international humanitarian and human rights law. States and other actors must open channels of dialogue with parties to conflict, dedicate aid budgets to training and judicial reform and exert targeted and coercive measures against parties and individuals who violate their obligations to protect civilians. In the spirit of the Arms Trade Treaty and similar regional instruments, States that export conventional weapons must assess the likelihood that they will be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law and refrain from exporting them if there is a substantial risk of such serious violations. Any State that does not dedicate efforts to enhancing compliance with the law ultimately contributes to its erosion. Ensuring respect for international humanitarian and human rights law and protecting civilians must become priority national interests of Member States and central drivers of foreign policies and international relations. Lastly, each one of us has the moral obligation to speak against violations and to use our sphere of influence to shape the policies and decisions of our leaders.
Reinforce our global justice system 64.
All States need to redouble their efforts to combat impunity and establish a truly global justice system. Effective investigations into allegations of serious violations must be systematically conducted and perpetrators prosecuted. Structures and practices must be put in place by States to ensure enforcement of the law, including robust legislation that encompasses the full range of international crimes and establishes universal jurisdiction over them. Good practices in evidence - gathering and witness protection, cooperation between Governments and with international courts and other accountability mechanisms, legal training, impartial judiciaries, judicial guarantees for the accused and adequate resourcing of national and international judicial and law enforcement institutions are all critical in that endeavour.
65. International investigative and judicial systems should be strengthened to complement national frameworks and the International Criminal Court should be used when national options prove inadequate. The establishment of the International Criminal Court is one of the great achievements of the past 25 years, aimed at ending impunity and upholding the rules that safeguard humanity. We must reinvigorate enthusiasm and the sense of historic achievement leading to the adoption of the Rome Statute. States must provide sustained political, financial, judicial and technical cooperation and support to help the Court to fulfil its mandate and investigate and prosecute crimes more systematically.
66. Among the most appalling crimes is sexual and gender-based violence. Perpetrators must be held to account and the rampant impunity witnessed in conflicts around the world must be stopped. States that have not already adopted national legislation in line with international norms on the rights of women, including outlawing all forms of violence against women and girls, must do so without delay. National justice systems must be strengthened to investigate and prosecute gender-based violence, as part of a long-term effort to end discrimination against women and girls in institutional and cultural structures, both in times of peace and of crisis. Demanding and resourcing such efforts must be a top priority for international, national and community leaders.
Use of the Security Council
67. As a standard practice, the Security Council should call upon parties to conflict and the multinational forces that it has authorized to uphold their international humanitarian law and human rights obligations. The Council should automatically meet whenever serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law are alleged and the protection of civilians is in jeopardy. I join others in urging the Council’s permanent members to withhold their veto power on measures addressing mass atrocities. All Council members should make a political commitment to support timely and decisive action in situations involving the most serious international crimes and not to vote against credible resolutions aimed at preventing or ending them. Anything short of unified Security Council action in the face of serious violations will undermine the credibility and purpose of the Charter of the United Nations and foster a culture of selective impunity.
Uphold the rules: a global campaign to affirm the norms that safeguard humanity
Launch a global campaign
68. We must launch a global effort to mobilize States, civil society and other global leaders to prevent the erosion of international humanitarian and human rights law, demand greater compliance with such law and uncompromisingly pursue the protection of civilians. Compliance with international law and the protection of civilians must remain central concerns. There can be no flexibility and no overriding concerns in our determination to protect civilians and reverse their plight. We owe it to the millions of people affected by war to end their suffering and ensure that it does not recur. Faced with those who evade or disrespect the law, the United Nations must remain a place where it is upheld and affirmed.
Adhere to core instruments
69. I urge all States that are not already parties to core international humanitarian law and human rights conventions to accede to them with urgency and to commit to doing so at the World Humanitarian Summit. Governments, civil society and individuals should mobilize and advocate for accession to and implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law instruments, including among others, the Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as amended, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the Arms Trade Treaty, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention), and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
Actively promote compliance and engage in regular dialogue
70. Regular meetings of States parties to relevant international instruments, in particular humanitarian and human rights conventions and treaties, and experts should be convened to discuss the implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law and the emergence of new challenges to reinforce its relevance, identify areas requiring clarification, provide an opportunity for legal assistance and, ultimately, ensure compliance to strengthen both the law and its application. Highlevel United Nations Member State forums such as the General Assembly, the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and mechanisms of other regional and international organizations, should be used more widely for dialogue on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Ultimately, however, it will be critical for States parties to international treaties to accept their responsibility to ensure compliance and find meaningful ways to strengthen their mutual accountability in that respect. Individual and collective efforts to promote and ensure respect for the norms that safeguard humanity should be regularly reviewed.
71. The International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent also has a key role to play in this respect. The thirty-second International Conference recommended the continuation of a State-driven intergovernmental consultation process to find agreement on features and functions of a potential forum of States and to find ways to enhance the implementation of international humanitarian law, using the potential of the International Conference and international humanitarian law regional forums. I encourage States to actively support the next phase of the process, which will be facilitated by Switzerland in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
EU-Turkey Statement, 18 March 2016
Today the Members of the European Council met with their Turkish counterpart. This was the third meeting since November 2015 dedicated to deepening Turkey-EU relations as well as addressing the migration crisis.
The Members of the European Council expressed their deepest condolences to the people of Turkey following the bomb attack in Ankara on Sunday. They strongly condemned this heinous act and reiterated their continued support to fight terrorism in all its forms.
Turkey and the European Union reconfirmed their commitment to the implementation of their joint action plan activated on 29 November 2015. Much progress has been achieved already, including Turkey's opening of its labour market to Syrians under temporary protection, the introduction of new visa requirements for Syrians and other nationalities, stepped up security efforts by the Turkish coast guard and police and enhanced information sharing. Moreover, the European Union has begun disbursing the 3 billion euro of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey for concrete projects and work has advanced on visa liberalisation and in the accession talks, including the opening of Chapter 17 last December. On 7 March 2016, Turkey furthermore agreed to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of international protection crossing from Turkey into Greece and to take back all irregular migrants intercepted in Turkish waters. Turkey and the EUEuropean Union also agreed to continue stepping up measures against migrant smugglers and welcomed the establishment of the NATO activity on the Aegean Sea. At the same time Turkey and the EUEuropean Union recognise that further, swift and determined efforts are needed.
In order to break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk, the EUEuropean Union and Turkey today decided to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU. In order to achieve this goal, they agreed on the following additional action points:
1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey. This will take place in full accordance with EUEuropean Union and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion. All migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. It will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end the human suffering and restore public order. Migrants arriving in the Greek islands will be duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed individually by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive, in cooperation with UNHCR. Migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible in accordance with the said directive will be returned to Turkey. Turkey and Greece, assisted by EUEuropean Union institutions and agencies, will take the necessary steps and agree any necessary bilateral arrangements, including the presence of Turkish officials on Greek islands and Greek officials in Turkey as from 20 March 2016, to ensure liaison and thereby facilitate the smooth functioning of these arrangements. The costs of the return operations of irregular migrants will be covered by the EU.
2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EUEuropean Union taking into account the UN Vulnerability Criteria. A mechanism will be established, with the assistance of the Commission, EUEuropean Union agencies and other Member States, as well as the UNHCR, to ensure that this principle will be implemented as from the same day the returns start. Priority will be given to migrants who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EUEuropean Union irregularly. On the EUEuropean Union side, resettlement under this mechanism will take place, in the first instance, by honouring the commitments taken by Member States in the conclusions of Representatives of the Governments of Member States meeting within the Council on 20 July 2015, of which 18.000 places for resettlement remain. Any further need for resettlement will be carried out through a similar voluntary arrangement up to a limit of an additional 54.000 persons. The Members of the European Council welcome the Commission's intention to propose an amendment to the relocation decision of 22 September 2015 to allow for any resettlement commitment undertaken in the framework of this arrangement to be offset from non-allocated places under the decision. Should these arrangements not meet the objective of ending the irregular migration and the number of returns come close to the numbers provided for above, this mechanism will be reviewed. Should the number of returns exceed the numbers provided for above, this mechanism will be discontinued.
3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for illegal migration opening from Turkey to the EU, and will cooperate with neighbouring states as well as the EUEuropean Union to this effect.
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EUEuropean Union are ending or at least have been substantially and sustainably reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated. EUEuropean Union Member States will contribute on a voluntary basis to this scheme.
5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met. To this end Turkey will take the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements to allow the Commission to make, following the required assessment of compliance with the benchmarks, an appropriate proposal by the end of April on the basis of which the European Parliament and the Council can make a final decision.
6) The EU, in close cooperation with Turkey, will further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and ensure funding of further projects for persons under temporary protection identified with swift input from Turkey before the end of March. A first list of concrete projects for refugees, notably in the field of health, education, infrastructure, food and other living costs, that can be swiftly financed from the Facility, will be jointly identified within a week. Once these resources are about to be used to the full, and provided the above commitments are met, the EUEuropean Union will mobilise additional funding for the Facility of an additional 3 billion euro up to the end of 2018.
7) The EUEuropean Union and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The EUEuropean Union and Turkey reconfirmed their commitment to re-energise the accession process as set out in their joint statement of 29 November 2015. They welcomed the opening of Chapter 17 on 14 December 2015 and decided, as a next step, to open Chapter 33 during the Netherlands presidency. They welcomed that the Commission will put forward a proposal to this effect in April. Preparatory work for the opening of other Chapters will continue at an accelerated pace without prejudice to Member States' positions in accordance with the existing rules.
9) The EUEuropean Union and its Member States will work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria, in particular in certain areas near the Turkish border which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe.
All these elements will be taken forward in parallel and monitored jointly on a monthly basis.
The EUEuropean Union and Turkey decided to meet again as necessary in accordance with the joint statement of 29 November 2015.