Five years ago today, we witnessed what was the onset of the biggest humanitarian crisis in our time. Millions of people displaced and millions in need of humanitarian assistance including millions of children. Has the world had enough? Are we ready to play our part to pressure for peace? A non-political campaign has been created the world can get behind. It takes one minute to add your voice. Together we can empower the collective public voice to pressure for an end to the war. Add your message today at message4peace.com and tell a friend. Despite the complex nature of the Syrian crisis, there is one thing which is clear, the urgent need for peace. When the parties to the conflict meet in Geneva, the public voice is absent. But a great many people all over the world are disturbed by the relentless suffering of the Syrian people. The message4peace campaign engages this voice. Add your message and spread the word and you will help achieve the power for change. We’re sending a strong message to Geneva.
WHERE IS SYRIA NOW?
No one expected the war to last for so long. Nor did anyone expect to witness the amount of bloodshed. No one envisaged that the Syrian crisis would turn into an international crisis that would challenge the international community, the humanitarian system and global security. Today there are
- More than 250,000 people who have lost their lives in this conflict including tens of thousands of children
- More than 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance
- Roughly half of the population is displaced internally and in neighboring countries
- Since 2011 it is estimated that an average of 50 Syrian families are getting displaced every hour of every day
- The war has taken its heavy toll on the lives of Syrians. It is estimated that today three in four Syrians live in poverty
A deep economic recession, fluctuating national currency, sanctions, soaring food and fuel prices, and disrupted markets have contributed to Syrians’ extreme vulnerability across the country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuYLadZiNZA
WHY A GLOBAL CONSENSUS FOR PEACE IN SYRIA IS NEEDED
International unity is essential for preparing the ground for an enduring peace in Syria. The increasing militarization of the Syrian crisis has made the need for coordination and cooperation critical as the most powerful states, the US and Russia, have become involved militarily in the conflict. The threat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) has further complicated an already complex picture. The conflict, which once started as an internal crisis, has become internationalized with various regional and international powers involved. In our previous blog in October 2015, it was argued that the Syrian crisis has become too serious to ignore with the serious level of violence and complexity. Indeed, the end of last year has witnessed some signs of consensus for the need to end the war. Lately, despite obstacles and difficulties, the US and Russia managed to secure an agreement of cessation of hostilities in Syria that started on Feb 27th. The precarious truce continues to hold, reflecting some serious intention towards peace. The relative calm that has resulted from the ceasefire has begun to make a difference to the lives of thousands of Syrians. According to the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Syria, the truce helped reaching 30% of the people which used to have no access to humanitarian assistance. There are still hundreds of thousands waiting for peace to prevail to have access to the minimum levels of protection and subsistence. There is still a tremendous need to keep the pressure on different parties to the conflict to build on this current truce to construct a comprehensive peace deal that can put an end to the conflict. There are many reasons that make a global consensus for peace so crucial for Syria today and below are the main four.
1. PROVIDE ACCESS TO HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
The nature of Syrian civil war has made access to humanitarian assistance extremely difficult. Parties to the conflict continue to impose sieges and blockades preventing civilian movement and denying access to humanitarian aid. Access to basic services such as water and electricity is used as a weapon of war. As a result of these conditions, it is estimated that more than 4 million people live in hard to reach areas. The UN estimated that there are nearly 400,000 people live in besieged areas, more than half of them are children. A recent report by Save the Children estimated that less than 1% of people in besieged areas received UN food aid in 2015 and only 3% received health assistance.
2. END THE DISPLACEMENT CRISIS
The refugee crisis has become the direct sign of the spillover of the Syrian war to other countries. This crisis has three interconnected aspects: the European refugee crisis, the regional refugee crisis and internally displaced people. The Syrian crisis is the biggest displacement crisis in the world. Today there are millions of Syrian refugees scattered mainly in poor regional countries as well as in Europe. In the region, there are at least 4.8 million Syrian refugees, living in dire conditions. Left with no hope for peace and political settlement, many Syrian refugees have fled to Europe, often at serious risk to themselves and their families. Behind these numbers, there are even bigger numbers of internally displaced people. There are today approximately 6.5 million people displaced inside Syria. Only peace can stop people from fleeing the country and risking their lives, looking for safety.
3. HELP BUILD THE FUTURE SYRIA
The war has been very costly to the Syrian people. The amount of destruction to infrastructure and services is unprecedented. One in four Syrian schools are damaged, destroyed or occupied. Almost 60% of public hospitals and half of primary health centers in Syria are either partially functional or have closed completely. The brain drain of the country is massive. It is estimated that about half of Syrian certified doctors have left the country, stripping away decades of experience and crippling the health-care system. The opportunity cost for lack of education and loss of development is massive. According to a recent report, the war is costing Syria US $4.5 bn a month in lost growth. If the war continues, the war will cost up to US $1.3 trillion. The longer this war continues, the more costly it becomes to rebuild the country and to escape the vicious cycle of violence.
4. CONFRONTING TERRORISM
International consensus over how to counter terrorism today is vital for the viability of the counter terrorism efforts. Despite military successes, the different agendas for different parties involved in the fight against IS have proven to be decidedly unhelpful in decisively defeating the group. In addition, due to their loss of fighters, the group is adopting war techniques that cannot be checked by merely aerial bombardment. In the last months, the terror groups depended further on suicide attacks killing hundreds of people. One of the most viable and positive responses to terrorism is to eliminate the conditions that provide a breeding ground for fanaticism. Peace is crucial for creating the benevolent conditions that foster progress and counter criminality and terrorism.
WALKING THE WALK
Today the need for peace in Syria has never been so urgent. As part of iguacu’s message4peace campaign, Katherine Davies, CEO of iguacu, sets out this morning (March 15) to walk more than 600 miles from London to Geneva. It will take Katherine more than 5 weeks to reach Geneva, time for us to gather as many messages as possible from around the world. In Geneva, Katherine will be hand delivering the messages for peace to the special envoy in charge of the peace talks. We urge you to add your message at www.message4peace.com and spread the word. By empowering the collective public voice, we can put real pressure on the parties to the conflict to more urgently secure an enduring peace.