We 73 NGOs working on humanitarian response to Syria and neighboring countries have signed the statement below to raise our concerns about the performance of UN agencies based in Damascus and their partners, particularly the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

It has become clear to many organizations that the Syrian government in Damascus has a significant and substantial influence on the performance of UN agencies based in Damascus as well as their partners SARC and other humanitarian actors. We are fully aware of the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people across Syria as well as in neighboring countries, and we are fully aware of the programs that UN agencies and partners including SARC are implementing in the governments areas, and we must express our concern over the manipulation of humanitarian relief efforts by the political interests of the Syrian government that deprives other Syrians in besieged areas from services of those programs.

The Syrian government has interfered with the delivery of humanitarian assistance in multiple instances, including the blocking of aid to besieged areas, the removal of medical aid from inter-agency convoys, the disregard for needs-assessments and information coming from humanitarian actors in Syria, and the marginalization of other humanitarian actors in the critical planning phases of crisis response. The whole of Syria information-sharing mechanism was created in order to prevent gaps in the response by including all humanitarian actors providing cross-border relief. Yet, UN agencies based in Damascus and their main partner, SARC, have been making the final decisions, shaped by the political influence of the Syrian government. The 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is a very clear example of this.

We are not hopeful that UN agencies based in Damascus or SARC will take concrete action to respond to the violations of human rights in Syria in a way that might protect the Syrian people, or stop the forced evacuation from several areas including Darayya and Homs. We have little hope that the UN-coordinated humanitarian response might operate independently of the political priorities of the Syrian
government. We have lowered our expectations until our requests became as basic as the mere request for the evacuation of a child in a besieged area in need of lifesaving medical treatment– medical treatment he should never have been denied in the first place. We thought it might be reasonable to pressure the UN to assist in ending the use of starvation as a weapon of war by attaining sustained and sufficient humanitarian access to besieged areas. That too has failed. This deliberate manipulation by the Syrian government and the complacency of the UN have played hand-in-hand. The people of Syria have suffered ever more as a result.

The case of the conjoined twins, Moaz and Nawras (see separate feature), present a very clear example of non-cooperation by humanitarian actors in Damascus and the political influence of the Syrian government. The twins were born in besieged East Ghouta and after constant pressure from humanitarian actors, they were evacuated to Damascus, where they were trapped waiting for treatment. Syrian NGOs sent a complete proposal through UN OCHA to SARC offering to provide medical treatment. We received no response and were held on standby until we received news of their death. We believe that the inaction in this case summarizes the inefficacy and inertia of the humanitarian actors in Damascus, particularly SARC leadership.

Additionally, we reported the death of 65 people resulting from malnutrition in Madaya [see separate feature) between November 2015 and May 2016, where medical evacuations that could have saved patients’ lives were not permitted. Madaya is an example of over million Syrians remain under siege with extremely limited medical evacuations today.

We, the 73 NGOs working to provide humanitarian relief in Syria, announce in this position paper:

  1. A full suspension of our participation in the Whole of Syria information-sharing mechanism as a first step in response to the political influence of the Syrian government and the inaction of UN agencies and other humanitarian actors based in Damascus, until we revise the WoS process to reach a new mechanism where there is no political influence in any aspect of it.
  2. We officially request a transparent and visible investigation about the information mentioned in media articles criticizing UN performance in Damascus, the death of the twins, and the political influence of the Syrian government on humanitarian actors in Damascus. We call for the installation of a monitoring body to provide oversight for the humanitarian coordination in Damascus in a mechanism that includes the participation of humanitarian NGOs in order to ensure that all Syrians have sufficient and sustained access to aid and that international law is respected.
  3. We request a revision to the medical evacuation processes in Syria, including the Four Towns agreement and others in besieged areas, to establish new protocols where the process of medical evacuations remains transparent to humanitarian actors and is not subject to the political negotiations or influence of parties on the ground.

The NGOs signed onto this paper provide humanitarian assistance to over 7 millions Syrians, over 6 millions in Syria and others in the 3 neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey in all humanitarian sectors: health , education, food security, shelter, wash, protection, livelihood, and many others.

  • Big Heart Foundation
    2- Binaa Organization for Development
    3- Ghiras Al Nahda
    4- Ghiras Foundation for Child Care
    5- Hand In Hand For Aid and Development
    6- Human Appeal
    7- Human Care Syria
    8- Ihsan for Relief and Development
    9- Masrat: The Syrian Establishment For Human Care & Enhancement
    10- Orient
    11- PAC (Physicians Across Continents)
    12- Qatar Red Crescent
    13- Syrian American Medical Society
    14- Social Development International
    15- Syrian Expatriate Medical Association
    16- Sham Humanitarian Foundation
    17- Syria Relief
    18- Syria Relief and Development
    19- Takaful Alsham Organization
    20- Union of Relief and Medical Care Organizations (UOSSM)
    21- Abrar Halap Association for Relief and Development
    22- Ahl Horan
    23- Al Seeraj For Development and Healthcare
    24- Amrha
    25- Attaa for Relief and Development
    26- Attaa Association
    27- Balad Syria Organization
    28- Basmet Amal Charity
    29- Bihar Relief Organization –
    30- Bonyan
    31- Damascene House Foundation for Society Development
    32- Deir Elzzor United Association (FURAT)
    33- Education Without Borders (MIDAD)
    34- Enjaz Development Foundation
    35- Ghiath Matar Foundation
    36- Ghiras Syria
    37- Help 4 Syria
    38- Insan for Psychosocial Support
    39- Humanitarian Relief Association (IYD)
    40- International Supporting Woman Association
    41- Irtiqaa Foundation
    42- Maram Foundation for Relief & Development
    43- The Syrian Establishment for Human Care & Enhancement (MASRRAT)
    44- Mountain Foundation
    45- Najda Now
    46- Nasaem Khair
    47- Qitaf Al Khair Relief Association
    48- Saed Charity Association
    49- Save A Soul
    50- Sedra Association For Charity
    51- Shama Association
    52- Snabel Al Khayr
    53- Space Of Hope
    54- Syrian Orphans Organization
    55- Syria Charity
    56- Syria Relief Organization
    57- Syrian Education Commission
    58- Syrian Engineers For Construction and Development Organization
    59- Syrian Medical Mission
    60- Tuba Dernegi
    61- Unified Revolutionary Medical Bureau in East Ghouta
    62- Union Of Syrians Abroad
    63- White Hands – Beyazeller
    64- Emaar AL Sham Humanitarian Association
    65- International Humanitarian Relief
    66- Basmeh &Zeitooneh
    67- Emissa
    68- Kesh Malek
    69- Local Development & Small Project Support .
    70- Olive Branch
    71- Women Now for Development.
    72- Syrian Civil Defense ( White Helmets )
    73- Independent Doctors Association IDA