The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously decided Monday to extend the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the delivery of aid into north-west Syria for six months, as Russia did not veto the resolution. Humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) expressed relieve following the decision, which provides a lifeline to millions of Syrians residing in areas outside government control during winter.
Through resolution 2672 (2023), the Security Council decided to confirm, the extension of its previous authorization that allows trucks to cross a single border gate from Turkey into north-west Syria. The UNSC also requested the UN Secretary-General to provide a special report on humanitarian needs in Syria no later than 10 June 2023.
Monday’s renewal came hours before the mechanism was due to expire. The Security Council had until today to confirm renewal of the cross-border aid operation. More than 4.1 million Syrians are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in Syria’s north-west. Most of them are women and children who require aid to survive at the peak of winter.
Humanitarian organizations reach currently about 2.4 million people each month in the north-west. Before the decision, both United Nations agency chiefs and NGOs had urged the UNSC to renew the cross-border aid access to northwest Syria, warning that without it, millions of people would not have access to food and shelter.
Since its creation in July 2014, renewal of the mechanism has become increasingly contentious. Since 2019, Russia, with the backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, has repeatedly succeeded in whittling down the number of crossing points from four to one, and has threatened to use its veto to completely shut down the operation.
The Syrian NGO Alliance (SNA), the Syria INGO Regional Forum (SIRF) and the Northwest Syria NGO Forum, representing over 100 Syrian and International non-governmental organizations, said Monday in a joined statement they are relieved that the Security Council voted to renew the authorization of cross-border assistance through Bab al-Hawa.
“This will ensure that critical food, shelter, water, protection, medical services and other humanitarian support can continue as Syrians face worsening winter conditions, ongoing conflict, the deepening impacts of economic collapse and an escalating cholera outbreak”, the statement said.
But the NGO groups also warned “an authorization period of only six months continues to present a significant risk to the ability to deliver aid effectively to Syrian people. Humanitarian conditions are progressively worsening and the inability of aid agencies to plan a year ahead means that assistance risks being less effective and more expensive, ultimately creating unnecessary uncertainty for those suffering most.”
The Syrian conflict is one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises worldwide. The crisis continues to cause tremendous human suffering to people both inside and outside the country. People in Syria have been subject to massive and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The UN estimates that in 2023 approximately 15.3 million people will need life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection.
More than eleven years of conflict in Syria have led to one of the two largest displacement crises in the world - the other being the military invasion of Ukraine - with more than 12.6 million people fleeing their homes. While 6.9 million women, men and children are internally displaced in their own country, the civil war has resulted in more than 5.7 million Syrian refugees, located mostly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Full text: UN Security resolution S/RES/2672(2023), on December 9, 2023, adopted January 9, 2023
Full text: NGOs relieved by UN Security Council Reauthorization of the Syria Cross Border Mechanism, joint statement by the Syrian NGO Alliance (SNA), the Syria INGO Regional Forum (SIRF) and the Northwest Syria NGO Forum, published January 9, 2023