In the northern regions of the country, where displacement cases are concentrated and increasing day by day, residents face a bitter health reality and economic conditions that threaten to destroy daily life and represent a large part of the humanitarian catastrophe, as health facilities suffer from a severe shortage of capabilities and resources. The lack of medicines and basic medical equipment portends more health disasters, with the spread of diseases and epidemics in light of weak health infrastructure. 

On the economic level, most Syrian families live in extreme poverty. High inflation and lack of economic opportunities put Syrians in an unenviable financial predicament. Thousands of families are struggling to secure their basic needs amid an economic deterioration that is deepening the country’s wounds. 

UNHCR’s latest update shows the scale of internal displacement in Syria, with more than 6.8 million people facing challenges accessing healthcare, safe accommodation, and basic food. Internationally, the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries continues to rise, reaching more than 5.28 million people, and they are in urgent need of humanitarian support and aid to survive. 


Humanitarian aid between manipulation and theft: 

A report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) entitled “A Strategy to End the Systematic Theft of Humanitarian Aid in Syria” revealed suspicious transfers and illegal use of UN relief funds before and after the February 6 earthquake in Syria and Turkey, although individual testimonies are considered only anecdotal evidence of poor behavior and Manipulation: The history of the Assad regime shows the systematic manipulation of aid, where the manipulation was not limited only to stealing it, but it was also allocated to finance the regime’s battles and ongoing acts of violence. 

Thus, it appears that humanitarian aid directed to areas of the Assad regime, during 12 years of war, contributed to supporting some of the most heinous war crimes instead of contributing to helping the affected population, which raises questions about the effectiveness of this aid reaching its recipients at the times when they most need support and help. 

Reports circulated in the media and social media platforms spoke of the diversion and manipulation of aid, during the few days after the devastating earthquake that struck the country on February 6, and the country witnessed a large influx of aid. It was expected that the natural disaster would be an opportunity to unify efforts and facilitate the arrival of aid, but the reality was the opposite, as the concerned parties failed to provide the necessary support to thousands of those affected. 

Attempts to deliver aid to the affected areas faced obstacles that further complicated the situation, as the conflict parties in Syria deliberately obstructed the arrival of aid to the affected areas due to political complications without taking into account urgent humanitarian needs. 

Several countries announced the arrival of aid through Damascus and Aleppo airports, which are run by the Syrian regime, and despite the regime’s pledges to distribute it fairly, new scandals revealed a series of accusations of stealing aid, exploiting it for political purposes, and transferring it to supporters of the regime or suspicious groups. 


Assad’s manipulation and UN abuses: 

Evidence and reports show that the systemic diversion of aid in Syria has worsened over the past years. In 2013, a former head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Syria warned of the ongoing negotiation of aid distribution in areas under regime control and how these operations are being directed in ways that are not transparent. 

The apparent manipulation and corruption of UN officials is sometimes very clear, with some reports indicating the offering of gifts such as cars and gold coins by some World Health Organization representatives to Syrian officials, and even the appointment of unqualified relatives as government officials, raising questions about the transparency and integrity of aid distribution. 

The main reason for this manipulation is that the United Nations accepts the pressures and conditions imposed by the Assad regime as a price for continuing its operations. These practices confirm the United Nations’ sacrifice of its neutrality and independence. The regime benefits from these practices to finance its repression and achieve its financial gains. Aid workers do not acknowledge the pressures they are subjected to and insist that the only way to provide aid is to accept the regime’s terms, which leads to funding further repression. 

On the other hand, the regime benefited from the United Nations’ use of sub-market dollar exchange rates, which led to the transfer of approximately $100 million in aid funds in a short time via fluctuations in exchange rates. 

Reports show the existence of contracts for sanctioned figures and human rights violators, reflecting a huge failure to protect human rights and ensure transparency in procurement processes. In a disturbing context, the United Nations spent huge sums of $81.6 million, during seven years from 2014 until 2021, to house its employees in the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus, jointly owned by the Ministry of Tourism and Samer Foz, raising questions about the real purposes for using this money and how it is exploited in ways that bypass laws and serve non-transparent agendas. 

Carsten Wieland, a former German diplomat at the United Nations, described this situation as a “radical choice,” as millions of people in need suffer because aid is suspended or diverted in a way that increases their suffering. Although there is the possibility of transferring aid, that money is being used to support forces violating human rights on behalf of Assad. 

In addition, other undermining tactics have been used that disrupt humanitarian operations, with the regime objecting to relief operations that do not serve its interests, and requiring UN agencies to partner with organizations under its effective control, exposing the relief secretariat to compromise and threat. The system also prevents UN staff from effectively assessing the needs of the population and disrupts their access to areas not under its control.  


Oversight mechanisms and the urgent need for reform and transparency: 

Public pressure led to the issuing of criteria for UN assistance in Syria, but the committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of these criteria has not yet met, as the FDD report indicated. Wieland confirmed the attitude of the donor circles and electoral circles supporting reform which is against the current situation favored by the Kremlin and any parties within the United Nations. 

The standards published through Russian media carry uncomfortable connotations, yet the United Nations has not issued a certified copy of the documents. Donor countries should impose pressure on the Secretary-General to reveal the criteria and confirm that reform is the top priority. The UN should also publicize standards and encourage the press to cover the reform campaign more widely. 

Within this context, there is an urgent need to appoint reform advocates to senior positions in Syria and the Middle East, in order to achieve greater transparency and change. In addition, there is a call to ensure the freedom of movement of aid providers and enable them to choose their partners without political restrictions, and to ensure that relief operations respect the principles of humanity and human rights. 

The large amount of money spent to purchase goods and services calls for vigilance and close oversight, as UN agencies purchased more than $200 million in goods and services in Syria in 2020, totaling more than $2 billion since 2014. 


The Syrian regime turns humanitarian aid into a weapon: 

The report, “Weaponization of Aid, Interference and Corruption” which was issued earlier by the Syrian Association for Citizen Dignity, confirms what was mentioned, as the Association shed light on the methods adopted by the regime to control humanitarian support, employ it to serve its policies, and exploit it for the sake of its political goals. 

The report is based on interviews with managers and employees from international and local organizations working in regime areas. It shows how the regime uses various methods to influence the work of these organizations, including directing them, identifying parties that benefit from humanitarian projects, and involving figures close to the regime in sensitive roles. 

In an accurate and interesting survey, remarkable findings reveal the severe impact of regime interference on the direction of aid and humanitarian action. The results confirm that 81% of participants in a survey conducted by a team from the Association believe that the Syrian regime mainly interferes in the work of humanitarian organizations, by identifying beneficiaries, appointing managers, and transferring aid to military or security agencies. 

It is noteworthy that 77% believe that the supervision of government institutions is one of the most important sources of interference in the work of organizations, and the results indicate that 95% of participants fear losing their jobs and 38% fear arrest or harassment as a result of their refusal to intervene. 

Among the notable observations is that 44% believe that more than 25% of humanitarian aid has been diverted to military parties, and this raises questions about the use of aid for purposes other than its intended purpose. The study also shows that employing relatives of people close to the regime in organizations is used as a tool for monitoring and reporting to the regime, exposing humanitarian work to control and espionage. 

This is what the “Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria” recently indicated when it said that the regime’s agencies suspended a number of employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) from working and forced the agency to dismiss them on the pretext that they constitute a threat to security. It became clear that the dismissal of these employees was a result of security accusations against one of their relatives of being in parties opposing the regime. 

Many Palestinian refugees expressed their dissatisfaction with the method of selecting employees in UNRWA, where mediations prevail and the security services control recruitment processes, such as hiring non-Palestinians and from sects that have influence within the Syrian security services, especially in the Palestine security center, which has begun to appoint employees more than the Director General of UNRWA! 


Increasing needs as the regime and Russia continue to control the entry of cross-border aid: 

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria took over the priorities of the UN Security Council briefing, on 27 September 2023. The latest session sparked broad discussions on the urgent need for rapid action to alleviate the increasing suffering of the Syrian people under difficult humanitarian conditions. 

The American representative shed light on the Syrian regime’s history of obstructing humanitarian aid operations and preventing the United Nations from reaching the Rukban camp on the border with Jordan. In a similar context, the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, stressed the continued violence that is causing the death and injury of thousands of people who have been forced to leave their homes in recent months. 

On the other hand, Barbara Woodward, the United Kingdom representative called for a sustainable approach to cross-border aid, while Francesca Gatt warned of high rates of food insecurity among some 12.1 million people and the suspension of support for nearly 2.5 million people from receiving food and cash aid through the United Nations. This further exacerbates the situation of children due to malnutrition, poor health, lack of education, and the continuing phenomenon of forced marriage. 


In conclusion: 

The intervention of the Syrian regime and Russia remains a major obstacle that poses major challenges to humanitarian work and requires a quick and comprehensive solution that guarantees the continuity of humanitarian work and the rights of the people who benefit from it. The theft of humanitarian aid in Syria represents a grave danger that threatens the lives and human dignity of the Syrian population. 

Reports and information provided by the Syrian Association for Citizen Dignity and other international parties showed that the Syrian regime’s exploitation of humanitarian aid for its political and military purposes exacerbates the humanitarian and economic crisis facing the Syrian people. 

International donors must carefully examine humanitarian organizations and civil society working in Syria, confirm their independence, and ensure that aid is not used for purposes other than those specified. There is a need to establish effective monitoring mechanisms at the level of international organizations to ensure the continuity of humanitarian work and that aid is not turned into a weapon or used in ways that contradict the humanitarian purpose. 

The solution to Russian blackmail in the UN Security Council is not to try to appeal to the humanity of Russia and other members of the UN Security Council, but to offer a legal path for the key countries involved and the UN to provide assistance without UN Security Council approval. 

This is what we previously confirmed in the Syrian Association for Citizen Dignity and we confirm today. The United Nations can deliver humanitarian aid to Idlib legally without authorization from the Security Council. Therefore, the international community must take serious and immediate measures to protect human rights and ensure the provision of the necessary humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and work hard to end their tragedy in a sustainable manner through a comprehensive political solution that achieves the conditions for a safe environment as determined by the Syrians themselves and ensures the voluntary, safe and dignified return of displaced Syrians.