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Aid agencies hail unprecedented UN vote as potential lifeline for Syrians

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Aid agencies hail unprecedented UN vote as potential lifeline for Syrians; Diplomatic breakthrough must translate into action on the ground  

A UN Security Council resolution passed today, which directly authorizes the delivery of aid to Syrians across borders and conflict lines, is a diplomatic breakthrough that must translate into real change on the ground, according to a coalition of 35 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). 

With nearly 11m Syrian people in need, and the humanitarian situation worsening by the day, the commendable progress made in New York after weeks of negotiation “must now lead to a massive increase in aid to those who need it”, says a joint statement released by the organisations, including Oxfam, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“This new resolution represents rare consensus on Syria among the five permanent members of the Security Council, but it is also a mark of failure on the ground to reach millions of people still in desperate need after the last resolution in February. Inaction has cost too many lives for too long - it is time to live up to the ideals of the international system,” said David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “It is vital for the Council’s credibility that this new resolution is now implemented, and results in a measurable increase in aid getting through to those in hard to reach areas - anything less would make a mockery of the international system,” he added.

An earlier resolution (2139) also called for cross border and cross line access, but depended upon permission being granted by the Syrian authorities. The resolution passed today directly grants authorization to UN agencies to deliver aid without state consent.  This is significant because things have actually got worse since the last resolution was passed – with a further 1.5m in need, and access worsening. 

“If implemented correctly, this is a potential game changer. We are looking forward to working closely with the UN to ensure that existing humanitarian operations are expanded, not duplicated or undermined. We ask that no restrictions be placed on our use of the most expeditious routes to deliver aid. We also desperately need improvements in other areas, such as prompt approval of visas and travel requests, and permission to chose and work with local partners,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

UN OCHA has estimated that authorization for cross-border access could allow the UN to potentially reach between approximately 1.3 and 2.5 million more people in need.


Today’s United Nations Security Council resolution, which directly authorizes UN agencies and their implementing partners to deliver aid across Syria’s borders and conflict lines, is a welcome and unprecedented further step towards ensuring millions of people in Syria get the humanitarian assistance they desperately need. The consensus shown by the Security Council in passing this resolution is commendable; it must now lead to a massive increase in aid to those who need it. 

According to the UN, the number of Syrians in need has skyrocketed to 10.8 million. Nearly half of these – some 4.7 million – are in areas that are difficult or impossible to reach; an increase of over a million people since the Security Council passed resolution 2139 in February 2014. While the responsibility to ensure the population receives assistance lies with parties to the conflict, neighbouring countries and the international community, the implementation of the resolution is a test of the Council’s credibility. For millions of women, men and children, it could be a matter of life or death.

The UN’s humanitarian agencies should seize this opportunity by working with humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to reach the 4.7 million people in hard-to-reach areas. To support the existing work of humanitarian actors already active on the ground, we call on the UN to:

• Ensure the application of the resolution is in line with its wider intent of safe cross-border and cross-line access by the UN and NGOs to reach people in need of humanitarian aid and assistance.

• Scale up its support for NGOs that are already delivering aid across borders. In particular, we urge the UN to make sure that no restrictions are placed on NGOs in their use of the most expeditious routes – across any and all border crossings – for their aid deliveries.

• Work with all humanitarian actors to create and implement an effective system of joint planning and information-sharing to ensure that existing humanitarian operations can be expanded, not duplicated or undermined. Specifically, we ask the UN to involve international NGOs in all humanitarian fora and planning discussions in Damascus and elsewhere.

• Undertake needs assessments jointly with implementing partners, including with NGOs operating in areas where the UN has to-date been unable to reach.

Today’s resolution must pave the way to further action. The demand for rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN agencies and their implementing partners is just one of the provisions of the already existing resolution 2139. The Security Council must not lose sight of its previous demands; including that parties must cease the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, respect principles of medical neutrality, and demilitarize schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities. While cross-border access is essential, the Council’s demand that all parties to the conflict remove restrictions to humanitarian agencies operating across lines and in government areas must also be realized.

We have yet to see a diplomatic breakthrough transform into a humanitarian breakthrough that has a real impact on the ground for Syrians caught in this deadly conflict. The Security Council is responsible for ensuring that its words are translated into meaningful action. It is time that Council members lived up to that responsibility and pressed all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. The price of failure will be more lives lost and further untold suffering. 


1. Alliance for Peacebuilding

2. Al-Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment and Human Development (KACE) 

3. Amnesty International

4. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Violence Studies 

5. Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (APHRA) 

6. Arab Coalition for Sudan (ACS) 

7. Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) 

8. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) 

9. Broederlijk Delen

10. Center for Civilians in Conflict

11. Center for Victims of Torture

12. Christian Aid

13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) 

14. Doctors of the World / Medecins du Monde

15. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

16. Global Communities

17. Handicap International 

18. Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS) 

19. Human Rights Information & Training Center (HRITC) 

20. Human Rights First Society 

21. Human Rights Now (HRN)

22. Human Rights Watch

23. International Rescue Committee 

24. Islamic Relief

25. Norwegian Refugee Council

26. Oxfam

27. Pax Christi Flanders

28. Pax Christi International

29. Physicians for Human Rights 

30. Save the Children

31. Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) 

32. Union des Organisations Syriennes de Secours Medicaux (UOSSM) 

33. United to End Genocide

34. World Vision

35. Zarga Organisation for Rural Development (ZORD)

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.