Syria: Informal Interactive Dialogue
On Monday morning (26 September), Security Council members are expected to hold an informal interactive dialogue (IID) on Syria. The meeting is being held in accordance with resolution 2642 of 12 July, which renewed the Syria cross-border aid mechanism for six months, with a further six-month extension subject to a new resolution. Adopted after difficult negotiations, this resolution encourages Security Council members to convene an IID every two months “with participation of donors, interested regional parties and representatives of the international humanitarian agencies operating in Syria”. The purpose of these IIDs is to review and follow up on the resolution’s implementation, including with regard to early recovery projects. (For background, see our 11 July What’s in Blue story.)
Monday’s meeting will be the first IID based on this provision, incorporated in the resolution as a compromise with the initial Russian proposal to establish a special working group. An IID is a closed, informal meeting format that allows for the participation of non-Council members. Given the interactive format of the meeting, some member states are likely to ask questions during their interventions at Monday’s meeting. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths is expected to brief, while several other OCHA officials—Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis Muhannad Ibrahim Ahmed Hadi, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Imran Riza, and Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis Mark Cutts—will also be on hand to answer questions.
Some members believe that the meeting should focus on the technical aspects of the implementation of resolution 2642, and it appears that several of these members will be represented at political coordinator level. Others, such as Russia, are likely to be represented at a more senior level. In addition to Security Council members, Syria, Iran and Türkiye are expected to participate. Donors such as Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the EU are likely to take part in the meeting as well.
Griffiths is likely to provide an update on the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria, both cross-line (that is, across domestic frontlines from Syrian government-held areas into areas outside government control) and cross-border (through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syria-Türkiye border). He might refer to the recent cross-line delivery of humanitarian aid from Aleppo into north-west Syria, which took place between 17 and 18 September, and included food and other relief supplies. This was the seventh delivery of cross-line aid since an inter-agency plan was created for such deliveries following the Council’s adoption of resolution 2585 (July 2021). While emphasising the importance of aid delivery through all modalities, Griffiths might underscore that cross-border deliveries are the main vehicle for reaching civilians in need. He might also express concern that resolution 2642 expires in January 2023, which complicates planning for aid delivery in the winter months; in this regard, he may stress the need for the cross-border mandate to remain operational beyond next January.
At Monday’s meeting, Griffiths may reiterate his call for more funding for the humanitarian response in Syria, including for early recovery projects. He might note that these projects—which are designed to increase access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, health care and education—are critical to improving the humanitarian situation in the country.
Council members are likely to raise several themes relevant to the implementation of resolution 2642. Some may be interested in learning more about the effects of water shortages in Syria, which coincide with a cholera outbreak in the north of the country, and about early recovery projects envisioned (or underway) to address this challenge. In a 12 September statement, Riza said that “[b]ased on a rapid assessment conducted by health authorities and partners, the source of infection is believed to be linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination”.
Some members might also want to know about plans to enhance the limited access to electricity, which is “essential to running basic services”, as Griffiths said in his 14 September briefing to the Council. Some members might be keen to discuss ways to increase the frequency and scope of cross-line deliveries, including how to overcome security, logistical or other challenges in this regard. There could also be a discussion of planning by OCHA and other humanitarian actors for the delivery of humanitarian aid in the upcoming winter months.
Following Monday’s meeting, Council members are next expected to discuss Syria on Wednesday (28 September), at the monthly meeting focused on the chemical weapons track.