• The Syria Crisis at Three Years | Sima Bahous

    16 Mar 2014

    This week the Syria crisis reached another ominous milestone, passing the three-year mark with no clear sign of an end to the death, destruction and suffering that have plagued the Syrian people since 2011.

    The tragedy of this crisis weighs heavily on all of our hearts and minds, and our thoughts must be with the hundreds of thousands of lives and livelihoods that have been lost or destroyed, the families torn apart, the communities made to suffer.

    More than 120,000 Syrians have been killed since fighting began. Over six million are now displaced from their homes. Women and children are suffering. Educations are on hold, businesses are shuttered, health centers destroyed. Altogether, Syria is now the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world.

    Faced with the death, destruction and impoverishment of a whole nation and it's peoples, the only possible response sometimes seems to be stunned silence. But we must speak out because in the midst of horror there is hope.

    Communities themselves under stress in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt have received the more than 2.5 million refugees with extraordinary generosity. Families already living in poverty have opened their homes, and shared their livelihoods with Syrians seeking safer havens. Governments of the neighboring countries, in financial difficulties themselves, have maintained open borders and made room for the victims of this conflict.

    Meeting in Kuwait last January, generous countries, led by Kuwait itself, have pledged resources to the most costly humanitarian and development crisis of all time. The United Nations has come together as never before, in a comprehensive assessment of the crisis and its impact on neighboring countries, and is working in unison to deliver the relief and resilience deserved by all. Civil society institutions and non-governmental organizations have braved the horrors of war and destruction to support communities both inside and outside Syria.

    It is time we recognized that faced with the tragedy in Syria, the world has come together, and if political solutions elude us still, and if we appear to have divergent political interests, we still come together in solidarity with the victims, inside Syria and in its neighborhood.

    Another ray of hope, very faint, and difficult to discern at times, is the patient, slow, painful rebuilding that is going on inside Syria today. There are twenty million Syrians in the country right now, half of them living in poverty and faced with unemployment, and displacement, and the destruction of their communities and livelihoods. Yet these communities are coming together, across all confessional lines, and across boundaries. Slowly and painfully they are rebuilding and hoping against all experience that the war will end soon, that what is rebuilt will remain standing, that resilience can be achieved, and that tenuous understandings across the fault lines of this war will hold.

    The United Nations is there too. We are witnessing the victims of conflict coming together and rebuilding their country, and we are there to support them. The more we support Syrians inside Syria to rebuild peace, the less we will be faced with refugees burdening host communities whose generosity is coming under terrible strain.

    This is why today, on the third anniversary of this terrible conflict, I want to focus on generosity and the indomitable spirit of humanity. I want to look hard at death, and poverty, at the use of inhumane weapons, at refugees on the road and communities under stress, and I want to reaffirm my faith in the common humanity that binds us all, and in the work of the United Nations, it's generous contributors and all organizations that help us maintain this faith.