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UN resolution may ease suffering of children in Syria

28 February 2014

REUTERS

Bad education: children pose for a picture with their toy weapons in a damaged school in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, last Friday

Bad education: children pose for a picture with their toy weapons in a damaged school in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, last Friday

THE prospect of easing civilian suffering in Syria came after the UN Security Council last weekend passed a unanimous resolution calling for humanitarian-aid convoys to be allowed access to all areas of the country.

Russia, Syria's strongest ally, was one of the supporters of the resolution. The resolution was met with only a guarded response from the Syrian government.

The UN resolution demands that "all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders".

It insists that all parties "immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas...and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or un-necessary suffering".

Russia also agreed that the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, should report back to the Security Council in 30 days on the implementation of the resolution, and the UN expressed its "intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance".

There is, nevertheless, no agreement among council members on what those steps might be. Moscow continues to oppose the use of force against the government.

Mr Ban, while welcoming the resolution, said after the vote that "Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated: it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law. Profoundly shocking to me is that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war."

The Syrian government said that it would co-operate with the UN humanitarian initiative, provided that the "root causes" of the conflict and the humanitarian crisis were tackled. The Assad authorities insist that they are battling "foreign-backed terrorism" rather than a revolt against the regime.

They also want the lifting of sanctions before agreeing to the free flow of aid. So the rare occurrence of a unanimous resolution on Syria is unlikely to be translated overnight into a significant easing of civilian suffering.

The UN Children's Fund, the UN Refugee Agency, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, and World Vision are jointly urging the public to "voice its outrage at the devastating impact" that the Syria war is having on children (bit.ly/nolostgeneration).

They are also warning of "the alarming long-term consequences of a lost generation as the conflict approaches its fourth year".

With nearly 5.5 million children affected inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, the five organisations warn that "without an end to the relentless horror and suffering for children, and without increased investment in their education and protection, an entire generation could be lost to Syria and the wider region."

The groups involved in the appeal are making five demands: an end to violence against children; an end to the blocking of humanitarian assistance; an end to attacks on humanitarian workers and facilities; a renewed commitment to reconciliation and tolerance; and more investment in children's education and psychological protection.

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