This interview is done with the NGO Forum member SAMS and its representative Dr. Mazen Kewara. Given the experience and expertise of Dr. Kewara, and the upcoming renewal vote at the Security Council, the interview focuses on the renewal of the Cross-Border Resolution for Syria. With the resolution 2449 in 2018 by a vote of 13 in favor to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council extended the authorization first established by resolution 2165 (2014) for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to use four border crossings with notification to Syrian authorities.
The United Nations cross‑border humanitarian assistance mechanism, first authorized under Council resolution 2165 (2014) has been renewed annually since then. Have you followed each renewal process and what are your initial comments on the process? How do you consider the current political and diplomatic conversation and stances?
Indeed, I followed the renewal processes of the 2165 every year and we are, as SAMS, part of the humanitarian community responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, so this resolution is our international legal and political umbrella we are working under all those years. The toughest year was 2017 as we implemented a long Advocacy mission as NGOs to have the resolution renewed and it was renewed at the time out because of the Turkish leverage had been used on Russia. For 2019 December voting on the renewal, all the signs now tell us that there will be no veto from Russia and there may be new gates to be approved.
The Resolution is considered crucial to move from fragmented humanitarian response to a community that coordinates, delivers more effectively since 2015. Could you please share your thoughts for consequences in case of non-renewal?
In case of non-renewal, as NGOs we will continue our work in the response; depending on the access we have and how much space the neighboring countries will give to us for the response crossing their borders to Syria. We will lose the presence of the UN agencies and most likely role of OCHA in the coordination and the cluster approach.
Technical rollover of the authorization of the cross‑border humanitarian assistance has been asked by several top officials at the Security Council. Engaging in cross-border humanitarian assistance what are the key lessons learnt from annually renewed mechanism? What are the key challenges you face for cross-border humanitarian assistance?
The main lesson learnt is the politicization of the humanitarian response in Syria. This was the trademark of this response and it’s enough for any future violator to get the political support from one or more from the superpowers to manipulate the humanitarian response and try to maximize its political benefits from it. The main challenges we face for cross-border humanitarian assistance are the politicization, huge security challenge and the lack of resources.