The countless civilian casualties in the five-year Syrian civil war has caused international outrage, as the global community demands an adequate humanitarian response.
In newspapers, on television, and across social media site, we are constantly bombarded with images of the destruction of Aleppo. The countless civilian casualties in the five-year Syrian civil war has caused international outrage, as the global community demands an adequate humanitarian response. People want to see how major international organizations like the UN will confront horrific civil war and put an end to this human suffering.
What is the UN doing to end the Syrian conflict?
While attending Security Council (SC) meetings on Syria, it was clear to me that everyone present understood the gravity of the situation. The majority of interventions were in favor of acting as soon as possible to end the conflict. However, the SC is divided when it comes to how to act. With so many different views on the situation, it’s extremely difficult to produce a press statement, let alone a meaningful resolution.
Even humanitarian resolutions are hard to pass through the SC. Although every SC member present wants to protect innocent civilians, passing resolutions requires total agreement regarding the precise wording of the resolution and the means of action. This is especially challenging with the permanent members, who can exercise their right to veto if they disagree with any detail. This context makes passing a resolution to intervene in Syria, or increase humanitarian aid, remarkably difficult.
Getting humanitarian aid to the Syrian people
Despite a complex political climate within the SC, the UN has been holding constant meetings to try and arrive at a consensus. Just a few days ago, Egypt, New Zealand, and Spain proposed a humanitarian resolution to provide aid to civilians through a temporary ceasefire. Unfortunately, this resolution was vetoed by Russia and China due to their political interests.
Dealing with a blocked SC: Historical precedent
In 1950, the SC was unable to pass a meaningful resolution with regard to the Korean War. The US delegate to the UN proposed the Resolution 377 “Uniting for Peace”, which states that “in any case where the Security Council, because of a lack of unanimity amongst its five permanent members, fails to act as required to maintain international peace and security, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately and may issue any recommendations it deems necessary in order to restore international peace and security.”
This resolution created the “Emergency Special Session,” which can be called upon by the majority of the UN members, and the resolution proposed thereafter can be adopted without the ability of any of the permanent members to block it. The “Uniting for Peace” resolution means that the UN still has the power to promote worldwide peace and stability, with the support of the international community.
In these last few weeks for me here in the UN, it will be interesting to see if Resolution 377 is applied to this context. Nevertheless, there is still hope that the UN can act to bring the violence in Syria to an end.
If you want to hear more about the adventures of Celia, Claudia, Elena, and Marco at the United Nations, stay tuned at goingtoieu.ie.edu!