As Syria nears the eighth anniversary of conflict, 500,000 people have been killed, 6.5m people have fled, and 6m are displaced.
As Irish humanitarian agencies working across Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have witnessed the impact of eight years of war and displacement on every aspect of life. In 2018, Concern, Goal, and Trócaire collectively addressed the most urgent needs of 2m people. We would like to acknowledge the support of both the Government and the Irish people in ensuring that we continue to reach those most in need.
However, humanitarian assistance cannot end this conflict. Despite numerous UN resolutions, aimed at protecting civilians and ending the violence, a number of key UN member states have been more proactive in fuelling this war than in attempting to stop it. The conflict has been characterised by a blatant disregard for human life, and the bombing of hospitals, schools, public buildings, and aid convoys.
Tomorrow, our three organisations will address the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs and trade and defence to brief the members on the situation and expand on what action must be taken by the Irish government. We are calling on the government and the international community to use their influence and authority to:
1. Ensure that all parties to the conflict protect civilians and humanitarian workers, allow affected populations access to humanitarian assistance, and ensure the freedom of movement, as well as the right to remain, of the affected populations.
2. Recognise the need to sustain basic services for refugees and for those displaced within Syria. Even if the conflict were to end tomorrow, it would take years for the country to recover.
3. Recognise that many refugees cannot, or will not, be able to return to Syria, due to fears of persecution and other reasons, and commit to assisting neighbouring countries with longer-term support.
4. Exert greater pressure on all parties and sponsors of the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to uphold UN Security Council resolution 2254, which calls for a comprehensive ceasefire and peaceful political end to the conflict.
At the forthcoming EU/UN Brussels conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region’, which starts on March 12, Ireland must continue to use its voice, and its influence, on the international stage to ensure that the international community meets the needs of the Syrian people.
We simply cannot let this level of human suffering continue. We can, and must, do more.
Chief Executive, Concern Worldwide
Chief Executive Officer, Goal
Caoimhe de Barra
Chief Executive Officer, Trócaire