The humanitarian aid to the Syrian people affected by the war is not reaching many of those in need because of the way the UN is operating according to the international law, through the Syrian authorities.

People in areas under the control of the rebels are frequently out of reach because the government denies the permit to operations of delivery of humanitarian aid.

In a letter published by The Guardian on Tuesday, a group of eminent lawyers explain that “under international humanitarian law parties can withhold consent only for valid legal reasons, not for arbitrary reasons. For example, parties might temporarily refuse consent for reasons of “military necessity” where imminent military operations will take place on the proposed route for aid. They cannot, however, lawfully withhold consent to weaken the resistance of the enemy, cause starvation of civilians, or deny medical assistance. Where consent is withheld for these arbitrary reasons, the relief operation is lawful without consent.”

“The UN – they say – has been explicit that the Syrian government has arbitrarily denied consent for a wide range of legitimate humanitarian relief operations. According to the top UN official for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, the ‘continued withholding of consent to cross-border and cross-line relief operations … is arbitrary and unjustified.'”

They consider that in the areas were the opposition groups are in control of the territory, “the consent of those parties in effective control of the area through which relief will pass is all that is required by law to deliver aid.”

Also several NGOs working in Syria have expressed in a letter their growing frustration at how the UN is handling the crisis, informs Reuters. The letter says a lack of coordination by the United Nations means assistance is not reaching some civilians in priority areas.

The UN has the legal requirement to operate through the Government of the country which will receive the aid. But in wars like the one going on in Syria that’s a big problem, because the Government is one of the fighting parties. If all the humanitarian aid have to pass through them is easy to understand that to reach the civilians in need in the rebels areas under siege will be complicated that way. Some thing has to change in the legal frame of these humanitarian aid operations in conflicts like the Syrian to give more independence to the UN agencies to work freely and reach all in need without being at the mercy of one of the sides. It may be more risky, so they would need protection by international laws and other means, but it would be more effective.

There are 9.3 million people in need in Syria, 3.5 million of them in so called hard to reach areas, 2.5 million have fled the country, and an estimate of 150,00 have been killed so far.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. And the kind of publicity the lawyers’ reports engender is yet another reason people aren’t donating as once they did …

  2. But the problem must be addressed and solved so the aid reaches all the needy regardless where they live. If the aid delivery was more efficient, maybe people would donate more again. Or maybe the mistrust is already so deep that there is nothing to do. All this Syrian situation is so awful…

  3. The Syrian and the Ukrainian situations are horribly similar, don’t you think, Olga ? Both being driven by powerful people against the definitive underdog … And I have NO IDEA what can possibly be done in either case. I mean, of course *I* don’t; but more than I think nobody does.

  4. It’s terrible when you can only observe and wait while such a tragedy is unfolding .

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About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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Justice, Middle East, World and Politics

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