Syria is a shining example of a greater cooperative need for a responsibility to protect

The civil war in Syria is a clear example of the world witnessing unprecedented displacement. It has produced over 6.6 million internally displaced persons due to violence, over 4.8 million people have already fled the country and over 13.5 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance according to OCHA, amounting to over half of the population of Syria.

The conflict in Syria is stretched across the political and military landscape, yet responses have been primarily humanitarian by the international community. The crisis we see is part of a much larger complexity of issues related to how the international community collectively responds to war and humanitarian crises’.

Western and EU nations, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Gulf states have all meddled in the conflict for strategic reasons. For example, the Obama administration has been financing, training and voicing its support for a rebel opposition to the Syrian Assad regime while bringing together a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist faction known as ‘Islamic State’ or ISIS in Syria and its neighbouring countries.

The UK has provided intelligence and airstrikes for the coalition forces. France has also joined the coalition and rejected the Assad regime and joined the fight against ISIS. Neighbouring Turkey has been assisting the rebel opposition in an attempt to “push” the Assad regime out of power, whilst refusing to commit a military force, which Saudi Arabia and Qatar continually ask for.

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Where as neighbouring country Iran, and Russia have been supporting the Assad regime, whilst differing on ISIS, with Iran holding an argued murky relationshipwith ISIS and largely abstaining, while Russia have been active in their attempts to eliminate ISIS and rebel controlled areas, both labeled as terrorists’ themselves by Russia and the Assad regime.

Direct intervention in Syria through the application of R2P (Responsibility To Protect) was blocked by Russia and China, who are permanent partners at the UN Security Council table, with only a diluted action plan being agreed upon by the UN to the crisis in Syria.

Syria has become a global political power game of chess. Thus, how is it possible that being lead actors in a supposedly domestic conflict, nations can deny a safe haven to those who have been the casualties of world politics?

Germany bellowed for between 300,000 to 500,000 people a year. However, Chancellor merkel retreated on these claims after apprehension from citizens inside the German borders. It is a similar story across Europe particularly after the President of the European Commission called for its members to take an additional 120,000 Syrian refugees in the EU-wide quota commitment, which only represents 0.11% of the total EU population. This hardly responds to the scope of the crisis.

Wojtek Ogrodowczyk / Creative Commons License

Wojtek Ogrodowczyk / Creative Commons License

However, Poland still signaled a complete retreat on the EU-wide quota commitment, similarly in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic with other nations set to follow or water down their commitment.

Faced with Europe’s biggest refugee crisis… EU governments can only agree to push responsibility to countries outside the Union“, put up fences and close borders, rather than a policy consensus to help the safety of the Syrian people.

Currently, smaller neighbouring countries’, with modest infrastructure, stretched resources and growing national discourse are being swamped with people seeking sanctuary, and here in lies the reason many are risking their lives to attempt to reach European shores.

According to Amnesty International, over 4 million or 95% of the Syrian refugees are in just 5 countries; in Lebanon they amount to around 20% of the total population, in Jordan they amount to around 10%, and Turkey has taken in nearly 2 million to date, Iraq and Egypt have also taken in large numbers of Syrian Refugees.

EU leaders have followed a similar route to Arab and Gulf states pledging money for humanitarian assistance. However, the overall funding to Syria this year still falls desperately short of the need, with only 19.9% (as of May 30th 2016) of total requirements met in line with the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan.

The International community has a responsibility to protect the people of Syria, which has largely been ignored or devalued, in favor of political debates arguing who’s responsibility it is whilst passing on blame and accountability.

In today’s globalized world we need to promote more comprehensive and inclusive policies that value difference in our society not divide, for which the recent spate of terror attacks in Europe and around the world intend to do. To eliminate such issues we must devise new and all-encompassing strategies to counter hatred and not simply roll out the same failed reactionary tactics that have only worsened cultural tensions and international relations.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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