Five years into a conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, conditions confronting civilians in Syria continue to deteriorate, particularly for children and youth. Warring parties continue to violate UN Security Council resolutions and international humanitarian law by deliberately and wantonly attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure, including homes, markets, schools and hospitals leaving a deadly legacy of Unexploded Ordnance.
Widespread loss of documentation further challenges civilians’ freedom to move inside Syria, hindering their ability to reach safe areas, access assistance, and ultimately seek asylum. Meanwhile, as needs increase, the availability of basic protection and services such as health, education and livelihoods for the almost 4.6 million Syrians sheltering in neighbouring countries is diminishing. Access to legal stay and legal employment is limited, and poverty rates are rising to unprecedented levels. More and more refugees are exhausting their financial reserves and sinking deeper into debt, forcing them to accept exploitative work, driving impoverished parents to send their children into exploitative child labour, forcing desperate women and girls into survival sex and early marriage, and leading men, women and children to return to Syria, or try to reach Europe and third countries through informal channels, at great risk to their lives.
As Syrian, national and international non-governmental organisations providing humanitarian assistance to those affected by the Syria crisis, we have since 2011 repeatedly stressed that only a political solution and an end to the conflict can spare Syrian civilians further violence, trauma and misery. The Vienna process launched in October 2015 may yield such an outcome, but the urgent humanitarian, protection, health, educational and livelihoods needs of Syrians cannot be put on hold while national, regional and international leaders work to overcome their differences. A whole generation risks losing its future: six million children affected by the conflict are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. More than half of children living as refugees in countries neighbouring Syria are not in school. In addition 30 per cent of refugees have specific needs with one in five affected by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment, requiring immediate and long term effort for all to access services.Moreover, present and future stability in the Syria region depends on the development community’s ability to positively engage, equip, and empower a critical generation of youth who will someday rebuild their communities/society/economy.
To ensure the needs of Syrians living under daily conflict are met it is absolutely vital that the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria and that the 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-2017 are fully funded throughout all sectors and for all host countries.
We ask that the international community be bold in its ambitions and commit to providing ‘compacts’ which strive to improve protection, educational and economic opportunities for Syrians. It is against this backdrop that we collectively submit the following recommendations to national governments and other stakeholders.