Syria’s humanitarian crisis: A priority, not an afterthought

Brooklyn Middleton

Published: Updated:

Days ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a statement urging all parties involved to make renewed efforts to end the Syrian conflict and alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged country. Signed by at least 120 humanitarian organizations, the appeal called for several steps to be taken that would immediately address the suffering “in the name of our shared humanity.”

There is not one sentence in the statement that shouldn’t be immediately heeded by the barbaric Assad regime and its backers as well as all rebel groups. The statement comes as the conflict nears entering into its sixth year. According to Mercy Corps, half of the country’s pre-war population has been killed or forced to flee their homes. European states have tightened their borders while Arab states need to do far more to tackle the crisis.

Reports suggest the Geneva talks have already been derailed by Russia attempting to dictate who should attend

Brooklyn Middleton

Over the last 72 hours, reports of at least 45 refugees – including 17 children – drowning to death in the Aegean Sea emerged while dozens of civilians were killed by Russian strikes in eastern Syria. As scores of refugees continue to die while trying to flee by boat and children are getting killed, who will enforce the basic humanitarian norms the world continues to call for in Syria?

Reports suggest the upcoming peace talks in Geneva have already been derailed by Russia attempting to dictate who should attend. It is worth noting that Moscow – which serves only to prop up the Assad regime and secure its rule – should have no influence over which parties should join upcoming negotiations and which should be barred from doing so.

Adopted resolutions

Meanwhile, 48 hours before the talks were set to begin, the Syrian opposition rightly pointed to the absurdity of expecting negotiations to start, yet again, while massacres continue and previous agreements are being ignored. But if the latest round of talks do take place in the immediate term, they absolutely must focus on the concerns outlined in the UNICEF appeal. It is all but certain that the talks will fail to bring forth any long-term solution to the conflict at this stage.

The U.S. and U.N. representatives should reset the agenda during the negotiations and prioritize immediately to focus on ending the suffering. The four demands presented by UNICEF – that call for humanitarian organizations to be able to operate freely in all areas of need as well as for monitored ceasefires – should serve as an outline for broader humanitarian goals.

“There is no practical reason they could not be implemented if there is the will to do so,” UNICEF noted. The upcoming talks should seek to demonstrate this will and should focus on how to best implement the objectives the organization has outlined. It remains to be seen whether the talks will even take place on Monday in Geneva and, critically, whether or not the most important parties will attend.

Irrespective of whether they take place or not, previously adopted resolutions – including 2254 – should start to get enforced. Possible long term solutions to the conflict can only be discussed and implemented once these past agreements start to be honored.

Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama’s policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad’s continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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