Statement by Ambassador Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 26 February 2015.

I thank ASG Kang and the High Commissioner Guterres, for their valuable briefings.

February 22nd marked the one-year anniversary of Security Council Resolution 2139, whereby the Council took action to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people.

And yet, as our briefers have just confirmed, one year later, much of Resolution 2139 is being ignored by the parties to the conflict, particularly by the Syrian Government.

Indiscriminate attacks, including with barrel bombs, have continued with devastating impact on civilians.

212,000 people remain besieged; administrative hurdles impede humanitarian access; and government security personnel routinely remove surgical and medical supplies from humanitarian convoys.

Serious violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law continue, with direct impact on humanitarian assistance and access.

This is unacceptable, and this Security Council must do more to ensure that its own Resolution is implemented.

The first step must be to retain the attention of the international community, through this Council, on the full range of humanitarian issues in Resolution 2139.

With the Syrian crisis now in its fifth year, it’s become “business as usual,” to quote the Secretary-General’s latest report.

While complacency and fatigue are risks, they are simply unacceptable when facing a humanitarian crisis of this scale.

Monthly briefings on the humanitarian situation in Syria are an important opportunity to keep the crisis on the Security Council’s radar.

However, New Zealand believes that there’s a need to reinvigorate these briefings, by making them more thematic in scope.

As a specific step, we propose that, going forward, from month-to-month, the briefers should focus on certain specific humanitarian challenges.

As a starting point, these could be the five key humanitarian challenges identified in the Secretary-General’s latest report –

  • ensuring access of medical and surgical supplies;
  • lifting the siege on 212,000 people;
  • ending the practice of using denial of key services as a weapon of war;
  • rebuilding Syria’s education system; and
  • addressing the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including through the use of barrel bombs.

We also support having other relevant speakers brief the Council, in addition to OCHA, such as this month’s report from High Commissioner Guterres.

We’d welcome the continuation of that initiative in future months by inviting other speakers.

Mr President –

Funding for the humanitarian response inside Syria has not kept pace with the scale of needs.

New Zealand welcomes next month’s International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait, to be generously hosted by the Amir of Kuwait.

We commend the generosity and commitment of neighbouring countries, notably Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, in assisting the more than 3.8 million people who have fled Syria.

Government services and local communal services are under immense strain in these countries.

New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, recently visited Jordan, where he saw first-hand the impact on host communities and the plight of those who’ve had to flee, particularly children.

Following his visit, New Zealand announced a NZD$1 million contribution to deliver basic education and skills training to more than 1,800 vulnerable young people in Jordan.

Overall, New Zealand is extremely concerned, both about the over 2.1 million children inside Syria itself, who are currently either out of school or attending classes irregularly, and the long-term impact of the collapse in the school system.

From almost 100 percent enrolment, Syria now has the second lowest school attendance rate in the world.

About 670,000 children are being deprived of education following the closing of schools by ISIL/Daesh.

We know that disaffected, ill-educated youth are more likely to join radical groups and to take up arms, with obvious destabilising consequences for the whole region.

There are also worrying reports, from recent evacuees from Ghouta, of minors being forcibly recruited by non-state armed groups.

In neighbouring countries, almost 2 million Syrian children are living as refugees, placing a heavy burden on local education systems.

Almost half of all Syrian children living as refugees have remained out of school through the 2013/14 school year.

Having lost their schools, having lost their homes, these children are now also losing their chance to build a future.

Mr President –

Let me come back to Security Council Resolution 2139.

One year on from its adoption, the Council must now take a leadership role to address the very serious gaps in its implementation.

New Zealand will work with other Council members, stakeholder countries, and those on the ground, to determine what we can do to ensure that the UNSC’s own resolution – that our express wishes – are fully implemented.

No ifs, no buts, no maybes, no prevarication.

We commit to finding ways to maintain pressure on the parties to abide by international law.

In parallel, we will continue to support the Council’s renewed focus on the political track.

There can be no resolution to this humanitarian crisis without a political solution.

New Zealand welcomes initiatives to give momentum to a political solution, based on the Geneva Communique, including the recent meetings in Cairo and Moscow – and we commend those who convened them.

Special Envoy de Mistura’s freeze zone proposal is also important – modest in scope, it still offers the best short-term chance to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

We now look for action, Mr President, not words; action from the Syrian Government, and from other parties to the conflict, in working with the Special Envoy to implement the freeze proposal; and this Council should stand ready to act if that action is not forthcoming.