We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

National Statement at the Security Council VTC meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria

Delivered by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN Mr. Gert Auväärt

We thank Under Secretary-General Lowcock and Mrs. Qaddour for their comprehensive briefings. As a long-time member of OCHA Donor Support Group, Estonia appreciates OCHA’s work in mobilizing humanitarian assistance to all people in need.

This work is even more important in light of rising number of Covid-19 cases in Syria. Testing remains low, which means that actual infections are probably much higher.

Most vulnerable to the virus are those people in overcrowded IDP camps across the country. Unimpeded humanitarian access to these areas is crucial for an effective response to the Covid-19 outbreak and people’s needs.

In light of recent Council’s meetings, I want to use this opportunity to take a closer look at the socio-economic situation inside Syria.

We note that mistakenly the issue of sanctions is also sometimes raised in this context. However, there is no evidence that European Union sanctions in any way hinder Syria’s socio-economic situation, or humanitarian response in the country.

Instead, we must look at the on-going conflict and root-causes of instability in Syria.

First, the war has destroyed Syria’s physical infrastructure. Syrian regime’s deliberate bombing of civilian facilities over the course of nine years, has led to substantial damages in various sectors, including health and education.

Furthermore, trust towards Governmental institutions remains low. In the international Corruption Perceptions index Syria ranks 178th out of all countries observed. Elites around the Syrian regime have continued to enrich themselves. At the same time – six  million people endure displacement within the country.

Final issue is lawlessness, resulting from warlordism. The presence of rogue military commanders, shabiha networks, as well as Iranian-linked militias – all these add to insecurity. We see it well in Southern Syria, which the Syrian government controls – yet, where communal violence, forced disappearances, and kidnappings are widespread until today.

In conclusion – the damages to the social fabric, and collapse of the Syrian economy is nothing more than the net result of these factors. International sanctions have nothing to do with it.