His Excellency Antonio Guterres
Secretary-General, United Nations
405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY, 10017, USA
His Excellency Csaba Kőrösi
President of the UN General Assembly
405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY, 10017, USA
September 21, 2022
Dear Secretary-General Guterres and President Kőrösi,
We write to you as humanitarian NGOs deeply concerned about the sustainability of the humanitarian response in Syria. In July 2022, after tense rounds of negotiations in the UN Security Council (UNSC), millions of Syrians were subjected to unprecedented uncertainty while their futures hung in the balance. When the UNSC renewed the cross-border resolution authorizing UN agencies to continue providing aid from Türkiye into Northwest Syria for six months, an immediate catastrophe was averted. However, the mandate was cut from 12 to 6 months and has created significant challenges and uncertainties around the cross-border aid effort. Already, people in need in Northeast Syria are facing the severe consequences of the discontinuation of cross-border aid, and there is significant concern that Northwest Syria could soon find itself in a similar position. We strongly urge you to work alongside Syrian and international NGOs, including those signed below, who are committed to contingency planning. The UNSC needs to break the cycle of endlessly lurching from one resolution extension to the next and signal the beginning of a real sustainable future for Syrians.
We want to thank you for your efforts to maintain the cross-border aid mechanism and for recognizing the moral imperative of providing assistance to Syrians through Bab-al-Hawa as humanitarian needs are at their highest point since the crisis began eleven years ago. As you know, failing to renew the resolution at six months would cause a devastating, immediate disruption to the cross-border aid operation. It would interrupt critical life-saving assistance to more than 4 million Syrians in the peak of winter, when the need for shelter, heating, blankets, and other critical goods will be highest. The impact of such interruption is very clear in Northeast Syria after the closure of Al Yaroubia crossing point. We ask you to do everything in your power to ensure the renewal of the resolution in January and again in July 2023.
We are pleased that UN agencies have pledged to ramp up preparedness and continue to engage in contingency planning, and finalize contracts, funding disbursements, and goods delivery to Syrian non-governmental organization (SNGOs) and international non-governmental organization (INGOs) partners to the extent possible ahead of the January and July 2023 deadlines. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) has reassured SNGOs and INGOs that they will maintain a leading role in the complex humanitarian emergency and ensure the continuation of the Humanitarian Cluster system, and they should keep that promise. Even in the event of a non-renewal, the presence of UN OCHA in Türkiye will be vital to help maintain logistical coordination and provide technical expertise among the many actors in the humanitarian cluster system.
We are also asking that UN agencies and UN OCHA communicate clearly with SNGO and INGO implementing partners on contingency planning, programming, funding, and gaps. UN agencies should be clear and transparent with their implementing partners to ensure that there is a smooth continuation of operations in any scenario. As detailed in “Transforming Syria’s Lifeline: A Plan for Sustaining Cross-Border Aid in Northwest Syria,” an August 2022 report by our partners at Refugees International and the Syria Northwest Aid Continuation Task Force (SNACTF), SNGOs have frequently felt excluded from frank contingency planning conversations. UN counterparts should strive to maintain strong and equal partnerships with Syrian-led organizations.
While the clock is ticking on the UNSC resolution renewal, the UN can help lead the way to ensure a transformation of the cross-border aid effort to be more sustainable and locally driven in the long term, including:
- Donors, INGOs, and the UN must build equitable partnerships with Syrian NGOs. They should increase funding to local NGOs and build equal partnerships that emphasize capacity-building, flexibility, inclusion, and decision-making authority.
- International actors should work with Syrian NGOs to build an inclusive aid agenda, include more Syrians in decision-making roles in the humanitarian response, and assist Syrian NGOs to navigate complicated funding bureaucracies to directly apply for funds.
- Donors should shift toward funding early recovery and resilience building projects that will benefit Syrians in the long term. This should include water and sanitation projects, the expansion of dignified housing, investments in the education sector and cash and voucher assistance for livelihoods programming.
We request you to utilize your good offices to urge UN members and agencies to advance collaboration with Syrian partners and to take these steps to work toward a more sustainable and locally driven approach.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Al Sham Humanitarian Foundation
American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS)
ATAA Humanitarian Relief Association
Big Heart Foundation
BINAA Organization for Development
Bousla for Development and Innovation
The Day After اليوم التالي
ELAF for Relief and Development
Hand in Hand for Aid and Development
Humanitarian Relief Association – IYD
Ihsan Relief and Development
International Humanitarian Relief (IHR)
Lawyers and Doctors for Human Rights (LDHR)
Önder for Cooperation and Development
Peace and Justice for Syria
Physicians Across Continents – Turkey
Rahma Worldwide – Aid and Development
Sewar “Kalkınma Şafak Dernek”
Social Development International
Syria Relief – Turkey
Syria Relief and Development (SRD)
Syrian American Medical Society Foundation – Turkey
Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA)
Takaful Al-Sham Charity
Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations
Verband Deutsch-Syrischer Hilfsvereine/Alliance of German-Syrian NGOs
Violet organization for Relief and Development
Women Now for Development
CC: Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)