Syrian Crisis: United Nations Response – Update No.13

On 11 October, the Security Council formally approved the setting up of an unprecedented OPCW-UN Joint Mission to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic proposed by the Secretary-General and to deploy up to 100 personnel from both organizations to implement Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). In response to the Council’s decision, the Secretary-General expressed satisfaction that the latter had moved so quickly on his recommendation. Highlighting the tight deadline (of June 2014) to complete the elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal, he stated that the UN was committed to working closely with OPCW to get the job done.

In a media briefing on 16 October, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Sigrid Kaag of The Netherlands as Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons programme. Since 2010, Ms. Kaag has served as Assistant Secretary-General of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Prior to this, she served as Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa with UNICEF in Amman, Jordan. A joint statement issued shortly afterwards confirmed that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission has been formally established in line with the OPCW Executive Council decision of 27 September 2013 and UN Security Council resolution 2118 (2013).

Also on 11 October, the Secretary-General congratulated the OPCW on winning the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Stressing that the OPCW has greatly strengthened the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, the Secretary-General urged progress in achieving the total destruction of chemical weapons by encouraging efforts to gain universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

On the ground, the team of chemical weapons experts continued to make good progress in verifying the information provided by the Government of Syria on its chemical weapons programme. On 11 October, a second group of OPCW inspectors and more UN support staff arrived in Damascus, bringing to about 60 the number of people in the team. As of 16 October, the OPCW-UN Joint Mission had conducted verification activities at a total of 11 sites identified in Syria’s disclosure.

As part of intense diplomatic efforts to convene a Geneva II Conference, Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi met in London with US Secretary of State John Kerry in London on 14 October. USG for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also participated in the hour-long meeting. Both Mr. Brahimi and Secretary Kerry reiterated their conviction that only a political solution can bring an end to the Syrian crisis.

On 14 October, UNRWA deplored the violence in Dera’a refugee camp in southern Syria, which reportedly claimed the lives of Palestinian refugees and severely damaged UNRWA’s health centre and women’s programme centre. “Reports from Dera’a of the further loss of Palestinian lives are deeply distressing”, said Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria. “UNRWA repeats its calls on all parties to desist from conducting armed conflict in Palestine refugee camps and other civilian areas and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

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Inter-agency regional response for Syrian refugees
Sixteen countries are currently participating in the resettlement or humanitarian admission efforts for Syrian refugees, offering about 10,000 places so far. With winter approaching, humanitarian organizations across the region are focusing on planning and preparation of winterization aid. Meanwhile, targeted food distribution has begun in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, south Lebanon and the Bekaa valley. In Iraq, a new refugee camp, Darashakran, has begun receiving some of the tens of thousands of Syrians who arrived in the Kurdistan region in recent months.

WFP launches E-Cards for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
11 October 2013 – As part of its massive humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is rolling out an innovative electronic voucher programme in Lebanon that will allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to meet their food needs and help boost the local economy. By the year’s end, some 800,000 refugees will be using these electronic cards – or “e-cards” – at participating shops in Lebanon under an initiative realized with the technical support of WFP’s private sector partner, MasterCard. Besides Lebanon, WFP will be introducing a similar e-card programme for Syrian refugees in Jordan.