Syrian Crisis: United Nations Response – Update No.11

Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution on Syria Chemical WeaponsAfter more than two and a half years of stalemate over the situation in Syria, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2118 (2013) on 27 September, prohibiting Syria from using, developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling or retaining chemical weapons. By its resolution, the Council endorsed the decision of the OPCW Executive Council containing special procedures for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and stringent verification by the first half of 2014. The Council also demanded that Syria cooperate fully with the OPCW and the UN, notably by accepting personnel designated by both organizations and providing them unfettered access to all chemical weapons sites.

Hailing the resolution as the “first hopeful news on Syria in a long time”, the Secretary-General stressed that the plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons was not “a license to kill with conventional weapons”. He called upon the Security Council to capitalize on its new-found unity by focusing on two other equally crucial dimensions of the conflict: the humanitarian situation and the political crisis.

On 30 September, the team of chemical weapons investigators led by Professor Ake Sellstrom wrapped up its second working visit to Syria.  It is expected that the team will finalize its report by the end of October.

Meanwhile, a joint advance team of 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 UN staff members arrived in Damascus on 1 October to begin the process of overseeing destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. Their efforts are expected to focus on verifying information provided by Syrian authorities and planning activities to help Syria destroy its chemical weapons production facilities.

The Security Council adopted on 2 October a non-binding presidential statement condemning the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups. The Council urged the Syrian Government to “take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, and lift bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles.”

Following the Council’s consultations, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos told reporters that “our task is now to turn these strong words into meaningful action for the children, women and men who are victims of the continued brutality and violence”.

During their annual meeting in Geneva on 1 October, members of the UNHCR Executive Council urged the international community to provide massive support to enable Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to continue hosting Syrian refugees.

While welcoming the generosity of countries hosting refugees, High Commissioner Antonio Gutteres warned, however, that the agency was stretched to the limits due to an emergency unparalleled in the recent past. He also noted that 80 percent of today’s refugees are hosted by developing countries and appealed to the international community to share the burden.

Select UN stories

Patterns of displacement continue to be massive in Syria
GENEVA (27 September 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, urged the international community not to lose sight of the plight of millions forced into mass displacement by gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria committed by all parties to the armed conflict.

Emergency Red List of Syrian Antiquities at Risk is launched in New York
On 25 September, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova joined the President of the International Council of Museums, Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Ms Anne Richard, to launch an Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk. The ICOM Red Lists facilitate the work of police, customs officials and all other professionals concerned with the protection of cultural property worldwide by helping them identify the categories of objects that are particularly vulnerable to illegal purchase, transaction and export.