New York, NY, August 9, 2023 — "We note the confirmation that there will be a continuation of UN-led cross border assistance through the Bab al Hawa crossing, based on an agreement between the Government of Syria and the UN. As the IRC we are concerned that the removal of certainty and security provided by Security Council authorization will impact the ability of humanitarian organizations, and particularly Syrian NGOs, to operate effectively. The expiry of this agreement in January 2024, at the height of next year's winter season, raises significant concerns about the ability of the response to scale up to meet needs given the lack of predictability.
A six-month agreement raises critical challenges for hiring and retaining staff, procuring supplies and delivering services that require much longer than a 6 month guarantee to implement. The extension of an agreement for two additional crossings, initially opened to support the earthquake response for three months, offers little more security.
We look to the UN to continue to engage with all parties on the ground to ensure an independent, impartial and neutral humanitarian response that is based on, and responds effectively to, the humanitarian needs in the northwest. Humanitarian assistance has been withheld and used as a tool throughout the Syrian conflict, the Security Council resolution was one guarantee that provided communities in the northwest some comfort knowing their access to lifesaving assistance was supported and protected by the international community. Humanitarian needs inside Syria are now at an all-time high, and therefore unimpeded humanitarian access to communities in need by the most direct and timely means possible remains of paramount importance. This is why the IRC have consistently advocated for a 12-month authorization of cross-border assistance by the UN Security Council to ensure the flow of people, equipment and supplies into the northwest with the predictability and scale required.
Looking forward it is essential that the UN and international community work together to secure a long-term, sustainable, and principled humanitarian response in the northwest of the country. We continue to emphasize the responsibilities of the Security Council to protect Syrians wherever they are, and ensure lives are not put at risk."