Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 20, 2022
I shall now make a statement in my capacity as Representative of the United States.
Let me start by thanking Under-Secretary-General Griffiths for your tireless work and your informative briefing. And thank you so much, Dr. Farida Almuslem and the entire Syrian American Medical Society. Your statement is an important reminder that millions of Syrians still lack access to even the most basic healthcare, let alone trauma care for visible and invisible injuries. Thank you for doing the amazing work that you do, that you describe as your duty. This work saves lives and carries so many risk in Syria, so again, thank you.
Colleagues, after more than 11 long years of conflict in Syria, I worry the world is in danger of becoming desensitized to this war. To the plight of the 14 million Syrians who rely on humanitarian assistance. To the dreams of the Syrian people who wish for nothing more than a peaceful, just, and secure future.
It does not matter that we have a host of other crises on our plates. It does not matter that the Assad regime continues to impede progress toward a political solution. We cannot turn our backs on the Syrian people.
As the humanitarian crisis reaches disturbing new heights, we must fully commit ourselves to supporting the needs of vulnerable Syrians. That is why, during our presidency of the Security Council this month, we are having three meetings devoted to Syria. It is why I wanted to make a point of traveling in person to Brussels to announce that the U.S. will provide over $800 million in new humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people – the largest ever pledge we’ve ever made at the annual Brussels Conference.
This assistance includes essential food, health, shelter, water, and other critical relief. Relief that will go to help those in dire need, but also toward early recovery – so we can prevent people from ever getting to that dire stage in the first place. And it’s why I will be traveling back to Bab al-Hawa in the coming weeks for briefings and meetings on the Turkey-Syrian border so that I am up to date on the situation on the ground. Because, as I’ve said many times before, no amount of aid will be enough if we can’t actually get it to those in need.
In that vein, the United States is firmly committed to implementing all aspects of Resolution 2585 to ensure aid can reach Syria, including via both cross-line and cross-border assistance. And we are doing everything possible to facilitate additional aid to Syria, including the recent issuance of a General License intended to promote investment in northwest and northeast Syria. We applaud the fourth cross-line delivery of May 16 and hope to see these deliveries become more frequent. But we know that cross-line aid delivery cannot match the volume or the efficiency of cross-line* deliveries.
That’s not conjecture. That’s fact, as the Secretary-General made abundantly clear in his latest report. And to quote this report, “cross-line convoys, even if deployed regularly, cannot replicate the size and scope of the UN’s cross-border operation – which remains a lifesaving modality for millions of people in need in north-west Syria.” Attesting to this reality, the May cross-line delivery provided food for 43,500 people. By contrast, in a typical month, UN cross-border aid through Bab al-Hawa delivers enough food for 1.4 million people. There’s just no comparison. Under-Secretary General Martin Griffiths reiterated this fact.
Last year, this Council unanimously voted to continue the mandate – an important, lifesaving decision for millions of people. It demonstrated the best of what we can do when we work together. Which is why I found it odd that somehow the Russian Federation suggested they were somehow misled into supporting this. We all see the benefits of this. All of those benefits are obvious. This year, we urge the Security Council to not only renew the mandate for the UN cross-border assistance delivery mechanism but also increase the number of crossing points to meet the rising demand for humanitarian aid in Syria.
The UN estimates that 14.6 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance in 2022, a nearly 10 percent increase over last year. We simply have to get this done – both the renewal and the expansion. This is vital to so many people, especially at a time when food and fuel prices are skyrocketing, forcing families to make difficult decisions about whether to buy food, medicine, or fuel.
Nearly two million Syrians are on the brink of being unable to meet their basic food needs. And 12 million people are already suffering from acute food insecurity. These are impossibly large numbers. This is more than the entire population of New York City and Paris combined. These are not just sobering statistics. But these are real people who are going hungry and do not know where they will get their next meal. People who live every single day unsure how they will eat, how they will get water, medicine or fuel, and when they will know peace. We cannot become desensitized to their needs and their dreams. We have to stay focused on this crisis. And right now, that means renewing and expanding cross-border assistance.
It is in all of our interests, including Russia’s and Syria’s, to prevent a dire humanitarian situation in Syria from growing worse and more desperate. It is in everyone’s interest, in fact. Which is why this Council voted unanimously last year – I repeat, again, we voted unanimously last year – and why we must do so again this year in the interest of all Syrians.
This past week, we have been working together to address global food insecurity. Renewing and expanding cross-border assistance is one clear way we can take on hunger. It is fully within our power. The actions we took on this Council last year did save countless lives, and we can do it again this year.
Thank you very much.