Crisis In Syria Shows U.N. Must Reform Its System For Providing Humanitarian Aid

Foreign Affairs: How U.N. Humanitarian Aid Has Propped Up Assad
Annie Sparrow, assistant professor of global health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York

“…The Syrian government’s ability to hijack the most expensive humanitarian effort on record signals a need for the U.N. to reform its system for providing aid, which defers to sovereign states even when they have declared war on parts of their own population. … The best estimate is that only between two and 18 percent of U.N. aid actually reaches needy Syrians. … If ever there were a situation in which U.N. agencies should break with their traditional deference to sovereignty, it is in Syria. … If the Assad regime wants international assistance to rebuild the cities it has played a central role in destroying, it should have to do so on radically different terms, with international donors demanding sole authority to select local partners, flatly refusing to submit to the government’s methods of extracting aid money for its own purposes, and requesting an independent forensic audit to determine how the U.N. has spent its billion-dollar budget in Syria, following the model [of] the Global Fund … If the U.N. cannot radically improve the terms on which it operates in the country, it should get out, until Assad’s unspeakably brutal regime no longer imposes itself on the Syrian people” (9/20).

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