Paddy on “moral duty” to save starving Syrians

Paddy Ashdown has teamed up with Labour MP and former Oxfam staffer Jo Cox to make the case for urgent action to help not just those people suffering in Madaya but the 1 million Syrians suffering the effects of sieges. They wrote in the Telegraph:

The UN estimates that 400,000 people have been systematically denied food, medicine and water in medieval siege conditions in Syria: the real figure is probably nearer to one million. Meanwhile the Syrian Government plays grandmothers footsteps with the international community: besiege a city, wait for the political pressure to build, make limited or phoney concessions, and then, when everyone has lost interest, continue as before. Last year the UN made 91 requests of the Syrian government to secure humanitarian access across conflict lines. Less than a third of those have been approved. In total, only 13 cross-line convoys were completed.

It is in this context that we should view the UN aid convoy heading for Madaya. Even if the Syrian Government is serious this time about allowing the convoy through, there will be many armed groups on the way who can stop it, or insist on a price for letting it pass – just as happened when the UN did this to relieve starving communities in Bosnia. The UN and the British Government must keep up the pressure and break these sieges and pressure EU partners to join in. Only if we do this can we save the lives of those in Madaya, but also the hundreds of thousands of others in less high-profile hell holes. Negotiating an alternative air route to supplement – or if necessary replace – the land route to get aid to Madaya is a very effective way of keeping that pressure up.

They are clear on the need for the UN to move much more quickly to help those in peril:

The UN “welcomed” Thursday’s announcement that aid would get into Madaya. Humanitarian aid is not a luxury. It is a right, enshrined in international law, reiterated in numerous Security Council Resolutions. The legal mandate is there. Humanitarians must use it. In the unnecessary days of negotiation between the Syrian Government giving permission and the UN trucks moving, more people have died.

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2 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Jan '16 - 6:30pm

    I agree. This needs urgency. We need to seriously assess the risk to our pilots too though. We need to help, but whether sending the RAF, as I have heard people saying, is the best way I don’t know. But it probably is.

    I don’t know a lot about this situation, all I know is if our plains can conduct the missions with a high chance of success then it should go ahead. If not maybe other ways of helping need to be found.

  • Jonathan Brown 13th Jan '16 - 9:25pm

    Very pleased to see Paddy joining Jo Cox on this issue. It’s something we should have been doing years ago (at the very least since the UN security council explicitly demanded the delivery of aid to those in need regardless as to whether the Assad regime gave permission or not).

    I hope Paddy will see that at the root cause of these problems is the Assad government and bear that in mind when he’s promoting talks between it and the opposition. Not that I’m against talks going ahead, just that we need to be much cannier than we have been over the last five years in realising when participants in those talks are deliberately stringing things along with no intention of working towards peace.

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