UN Security Council: Briefing: The Situation in the Middle East; Syria Humanitarian

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Thank you, Madam President.

New Zealand too expresses our condolences for the recent loss of life in Paris and Beirut, as well as attacks in Ankara, Egypt, Iraq and beyond. We must do all we can to counter ISIL. This includes finding a political resolution to the Syrian conflict, which is a major driver of ISIL. 

These attacks show that the human cost of the conflict reaches well beyond Syria. Within Syria, however too, it continues to escalate.

Twenty-one months ago, this Council passed resolution 2139 on Syria, which demanded that all parties immediately cease and desist from all violations of international humanitarian law, and human rights abuses.

This call has not been heeded. A brutal and lawless conflict continues.

Human rights violations and abuses can lead to, and fuel conflict. They underpin many of the conflicts which come before this Council. And this is especially evident in Syria.

A common feature of conflict is the disproportional impact that it has on the most vulnerable. This is true in Syria for women and for children.

As we’ve heard today, 2.7 million Syrian children have been deprived of their right to education — some for four years or more. The fact that more than half of all attacks on schools worldwide over the last four years took place in Syria says it all.

As we’ve heard today from other colleagues, children continue to be recruited and indoctrinated by ISIL and non-state armed groups.

Women and girls inside Syria, and those who have fled the conflict, are subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and harassment. The desperate economic situation of families is exploited with young girls being coerced into early marriages.

ISIL must be singled out for its brutal campaign of sexual violence.
Sexual violence is not a "women’s issue". It is a weapon of war. It terrorises individuals and it destabilises families and communities.

We need to move beyond the narrative of women being victims of conflict. They must be provided the opportunity to be powerful agents of change in transforming their societies.

Syrian women have shown immense resilience and strength.

At the political level, Syrian women must be included in policy dialogues about Syria’s future, as called for by Special Envoy de Mistura last week and has been echoed here today. 

At the community level, the views of women must be included in needs assessments, programme design, implementation and evaluations of humanitarian and development programmes.

Madam President.

Accountability for international humanitarian law violations and human rights abuses in Syria is not optional. It is essential for justice and it is essential for healing.

New Zealand is working with Jordan and Spain to renew Security Council Resolution 2191, which has enabled cross-border access of humanitarian assistance into Syria. 2191 has enabled the delivery of food assistance, non-food humanitarian items and medical supplies for millions of people. 

However, millions more remain hard-to-reach, including those in besieged areas, who are intentionally denied basic necessities as a cruel tactic of war.

New Zealand is concerned that cross-line access continues to be obstructed, particularly by the Syrian Government. Humanitarian access into ISIL-controlled areas remains almost non-existent. 

New Zealand supports the efforts of Special Envoy de Mistura, but he needs the support of the international community.

In this regard, New Zealand welcomes the ongoing talks in Vienna. They are an important step towards a political solution, affirming the benefits of pragmatism and diplomacy.

We also welcome the agreement of the International Syria Support Group to encourage confidence building measures by parties on the ground, including better implementation of resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191, increased humanitarian access and an end to the use of indiscriminate weapons.

These measures will advance the political process, which is the only real answer to the humanitarian crisis. They will also protect civilians in the short term. Their implementation is long overdue.

Finally, we welcome the strong role envisaged for the Security Council by the Vienna process. We look forward to working closely with Council members to reinforce progress and to engage on questions emerging from the Vienna process.

New Zealand is encouraged to see momentum building towards finding a political solution.  It is shameful that it has taken nearly five years; well over a quarter of a million people dead, 4.2 million people – which is almost the exact population of New Zealand – fleeing Syria, to get to where we are today.

We must commit to ensuring that now is the beginning of the end of the conflict in Syria. And in this regard, we welcome the UK’s announcement of a global Syria crisis conference early next year.

Thank you Madam President.


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