UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief is proposing wide-ranging actions to protect civilians caught in Syria’s conflict, deliver aid to millions in desperate need and alleviate the spillover into neighboring countries.
Valerie Amos said in a document circulated to the U.N. Security Council and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press that there should be a public commitment by the government and opposition to protect civilians and those no longer engaged in hostilities, including the sick, wounded and detained.
She said all parties should also make commitments to avoid establishing military positions in populated areas, to give advance notification of military offensives, to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian convoys on designated routes including across front lines, and to institute “humanitarian pauses” to get aid to the most affected areas.
The Security Council is deeply divided over Syria, with Russia and China vetoing three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring President Bashar Assad to halt the violence. But council members have been quietly discussing a possible U.N. resolution focusing on the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria and the spillover into neighboring Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
Amos said last month that at least 6.8 million Syrians require urgent humanitarian assistance and she accused the government and opposition of “systematically and in many cases deliberately” failing in their obligation to protect civilians. U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres said two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to the agency have fled since the beginning of 2013, an average of over 6,000 daily.
“There is a consensus among U.N. agencies that a genuine political process is urgently needed to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and in neighboring countries,” Amos said in the Security Council document.
In the meantime, she proposed 30 measures that could be taken to address current humanitarian challenges in Syria and neighboring countries.
To improve protection of civilians, she also called for “zero tolerance” by all parties for killing and maiming children and recruiting them to fight, the immediate demilitarization of medical facilities, schools and water stations, and measures to safeguard health facilities, personnel and ambulances.
To enable humanitarian operations, Amos said the government and opposition should authorize representatives who have authority to deal with all operational and policy issues.
There must also be protection for humanitarian staff and vehicles, agreement on priority humanitarian routes, possible “days of tranquility” to allow the passage of humanitarian convoys and evacuation of the sick and wounded, and “cross-border assistance as required by operational necessity,” she said.
Amos urged the Syrian government to lift “bureaucratic obstacles” and accelerate the issuance of visas to humanitarian workers, increase the number of international aid organizations, fast-track customs procedures for humanitarian goods and equipment, speed up the time frame for approving convoys, and facilitate the establishment of additional humanitarian hubs.
To alleviate the crisis in the region, she called for a regional strategy and specific plans for each country as well as open borders and equal treatment for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.
Amos urged support for Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s proposal for a conference on the impact of the refugee crisis and the need for burden sharing, adding that the U.N. was looking at a possible meeting on the sidelines of next month’s ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Amos also called for all parties to respect the impartiality of aid and prevent the politicization of humanitarian assistance, and for “sustainable funding” for Syria-related humanitarian operations