International players fiddle while Syria burns
OPINION:UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has warned of ‘hell’ if the crisis cannot be resolved
The United Nations human rights office has estimated that more than 60,000 people have died in Syria’s bloody civil war, surpassing the Syrian opposition’s estimates by one-third.
UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay blamed the entire international community, including the UN, for having “fiddled around the edges while Syria burns”.
As the violence threatens to engulf the region, the question remains what can be done to halt the slaughter of innocent civilians.
There are echoes of UN inaction in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. A recent report from the organisation was also strongly critical of officials for failing to protect civilians during the final days of the civil war in Sri Lanka when an estimated 30,000 civilians died.
The UN should be able to meet a much higher standard in fulfilling its protection and humanitarian responsibilities. Unfortunately, the international community through the auspices of the UN is failing to meet its obligations in Syria. Should the Arab League or other regional powers intervene? The Emir of Qatar and others have challenged the organisation’s efforts at resolving the conflict through negotiation by calling on Arab militaries to help stop the bloodshed in Syria.
The evidence suggests that intervention by third states in what are essentially civil wars more often than not leads to more violence. This in turn leads to an increase in casualties, especially among the civilian population. Ceasefires are often greeted with cynicism. What is not always appreciated is that such ceasefires, however flawed, invariably lead to a reduction in battle casualties. This alone is reason to support them.
Syria poses a potential threat to the whole region, especially Israel and Lebanon.
There is an urgent need for funding as UN agencies are seriously under resourced and the current political impasse is being used as an excuse for inaction on all fronts. Some of the neighbouring states are among the wealthiest oil producers in the world. Recent pledges of aid are welcome, but much more is needed to assist the refugees.
The concept of humanitarian corridors and safe zones to get the aid to those in need must be considered, preferably with the consent of the parties. A no-fly zone is another possible option, but direct military intervention to support the rebels will not reduce civilian casualties.
Pressure must be applied to all parties to reach a political settlement.