It might not feel like it, but it’s been more than two years since the sticky spring that is the Syrian Civil War first began. In an attempt to do what they can for the war torn country and it’s displaced people the United Nations have announced a $4.4 billion humanitarian aid appeal, their largesto ever request for aid.
The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 amongst a tide of Middle Eastern political unrest and change that has become known as the Arab Spring. While the movements were successful in changing the government structures in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya moving closer to democracy, the Syrian conflict bubbles on with a frightening death toll on both sides and little sign of political change.
The significant bid for aid is to assist the rising volume of civilians that have been affected by the turmoil that continues to disrupt their lives. With vast numbers of people that have fled Syria to become refugees in neighbouring countries and an even greater number displaced from their homes inside Syria the humanitarian aid will be used to help diminish the human tragedy which shows no real sign of stopping.
Emphasising the magnitude of the request, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said, “We had hoped we would not have to do it again, but today we are asking for $4.4 billion for the whole of 2013. That’s more than half the combined total of all of our other appeals which cover 16 countries from Afghanistan through to Somalia.”
The aid will inevitably go some way to supporting the people and the surrounding states, but it will do little to stop the ongoing conflict. Unfortunately, the UN hasn’t been able to apply the same political pressure on Syria as it did on Libya during their revolutionary civil war.
Blocks from Russia and China have contributed to the lack of success in the UN adding weight to the country’s move away from what has been a one man one party state since the 70s. Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000 aged just 34 having been handed control of the country by his dad, Hafez al-Assad, who had gained power in a revolution in 1970, declaring himself President some 5 months later.
For any kid just heading out to university in Syria, the opportunity to vote for credible changes in government aren’t really available, so it’s easy to understand why the country is locked in conflict. During the suffragette movement in the UK Emily Davison threw herself under the King’s horse to fight for her right to vote in a genuine democratic election. What would you do if you weren’t safe in the knowledge that if you wanted to you could freely vote to remove Cameron from the comfort of Number 10.
The reality is that it’s easy to simplify things in a few paragraphs and that there are a number of credible complexities that make it difficult for the UN to intervene on behalf of the people of Syria. Enforced political change from an external organisation is always a fine line to tread and the possibility of terrorist activity in the opposition ranks only thins the tightrope. However, just because the situation is complex it doesn’t mean that it should be avoided or given up on.
Hopefully, in addition to the massive aid bill that UN member states will be asked to foot the bill for, it will also deploy stronger political pressure to bring about internationally recognised democratic elections and bring an end to the civil war. If not then the bloodshed, displacement and political unrest will continue to rage on in Syria.
If you want to add weight to the political pressure on the EU to enforce tougher sanctions on the Syrian government, international campaign organisation Avaaz has a petition you can get involved in at http://www.avaaz.org/en/syria_end_the_terror/. You can also donate to the Red Cross Syria crisis appeal or Save The Children to contribute your own aid.