Tuesday, 16 February, 2016

As the violence engulfing Syria continues, veteran mediator and former UN Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi calls on all parties to end the violence, prioritise the needs of the Syrian people and for European governments to agree a coordinated response to the refugee crisis.

"It is imperative that the world puts the needs of the Syrian people first."

With the 5th anniversary of the Syrian civil war fast approaching, and another round of peace talks delayed, it is imperative that the world puts the needs of the Syrian people first.

It’s time to put an immediate halt to all fighting. Far too many lives have already been lost or destroyed, and the very existence of Syria as a state is under threat. Those responsible for the fighting should realise that that route will lead nowhere. If the latest peace talks convened by the UN Special Envoy are to have any chance of making progress, all those capable of improving conditions on the ground must act now.

Boy rescued following a bomb blast in Aleppo, Syria (Credit: SyriaFreedom)

A determined and sustained effort to attain peace is the only way to protect the people of Syria and the entire region. All parties to the conflict and those supporting them must work with the Special Envoy as he seeks to secure a peaceful and lasting resolution of the conflict.

"Success in the talks is in the best interests of common humanity."

Comprehensive talks with all parties at the table are the only effective route to building a lasting peace. I discussed this earlier this month at the Youth & Leaders Summit held at Sciences Po in Paris, along with fellow Elder Martti Ahtisaari. The key to successful peace talks is mediation which facilitates the needs of all involved parties and organisations. Success in the talks is in the best interests of common humanity. 

There are, at least, renewed international efforts to return peace and dignity to the people of Syria. The recent Syria Donors Conference in London saw an encouraging level of ambition needed to address the funding shortage and the humanitarian needs of those affected by the conflict.

The substantial financial pledges made and the broad commitment to ensure children’s education and help create jobs for Syrian refugees living in the region were welcome expressions of international solidarity.

"We all know that only an immediate end to the conflict and an agreed political solution will staunch the bleeding."

But, as the recent excellent report by the High Level Panel on humanitarian funding makes clear, there is an alarming, persistent gap between the amount of money pledged to tackle humanitarian crises and the actual amount delivered. The Donors Conference and the commitments made have the ability to address the financing chasm that exists today. At the same time, we all know that only an immediate end to the conflict and an agreed political solution will staunch the bleeding.

Young refugees experiencing freezing temperatures on their route through Balkans (Photo: UNHCR/Igor Pavicevic)

Concurrently with securing peace in the region, a coordinated response to the growing refugee crisis is well overdue. Neighbouring countries have stepped up to shoulder the burden. One village in Lebanon has agreed to rehouse 20,000 refugees; this exceeds the quota agreed by major European countries.

One hopes that member states of the European Union will soon agree on a coherent and comprehensive refugee policy that shares the burden fairly between them and protects refugees from economic and all other forms of humiliation and exploitation. The human rights of refugees and migrants must be respected and governments must take the lead in ensuring their protection. We are seeing some in Europe worryingly pushing their countries in the opposite direction, approving laws that strip refugees of their dignity and continue their dehumanisation.

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