FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Syrian American Council Denounces UN Move to Damascus
Consolidation of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would give Assad regime control of aid distribution
WASHINGTON D.C., May 3, 2019 – The Syrian American Council condemns the impending move of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to Damascus. Though no official announcement has been made, available information indicates that the Jordan OCHA headquarters will be consolidated with Damascus, with procedures starting to make the move official.
The development would mean all aid collected for Syria through donor nations would be centralized in, and delivered through, regime-controlled Damascus. This not only undermines the U.N.’s mission to deliver aid to all areas of the country, but specifically its efforts to get aid to areas outside of regime control, including 3 million civilians in Idlib; 70,000 in the al-Hol refugee camp who fled the Islamic State; 35,000 currently stranded at al-Rukban camp on the border between Jordan and Syria; and a further 1.4 million in the northeast, thrown into extra uncertainty by a recent pullback of U.S. forces.
“For years, the Assad regime has used the withholding of aid as a weapon of war, and the international community continues to allow this to happen,” said Dr. Zaki Lababidi, president of the Syrian American Council. “This move would give the regime control over aid distribution to the entire country, leaving the U.N. begging for permission to deliver it. The consolidation to Damascus will make the U.N. not only complicit in this war, but an accomplice in this war crime.”
The centralization of OCHA in Damascus will cause:
- U.N. relationships with Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to cease, due to the regime’s require screenings of those NGOs;
- Assad and his allies having even greater control over the distribution of humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), including previous practices of seizing and selling aid;
- The U.N. providing more legitimacy to Assad by assuming humanitarian concern is now only relevant to areas controlled by pro-regime forces; and
- A further lack of accountabilityto the regime committing of war crimes, acts against humanity and other atrocities
The Syrian American Council asks the U.N. reconsider its decision to consolidate, and calls on the international community to demand any consolidation take place in an opposition-held area. Further, donor nations must demand transparency, including monitoring, auditing and public reporting, on all humanitarian operations in Damascus.
Michelle R. Taylor