The Century Foundation: “Syrian Humanitarian ‘Lifeline’ Goes to Vote”

Today at The Century Foundation, I have a new report on the stakes of Tuesday’s expected vote to renew UN Security Council Resolution 2165 – the international legal mandate for Syria’s cross-border humanitarian response.

“Syrian Humanitarian ‘Lifeline’ Goes to Vote”

For months, humanitarians and donors have been anxious over the renewal of UNSCR 2165. On Tuesday, December 19, the Security Council is expected to finally vote on what a top UN relief official has called a “lifeline” for Syrians in need.

Most of the Security Council backs renewal of UNSCR 2165, which they argue is purely humanitarian. But the resolution also has clear political implications, insofar as cross-border aid without the permission of Syria’s Assad regime has been a potent symbol of Syria’s broken sovereignty.

And only one vote really matters: Russia’s. Russia has said UNSCR 2165 was an emergency response to conditions that no longer exist and that the resolution should be phased out. No one really knows whether Russia will ultimately opt for renewal, or what concessions it wants in exchange.

Of the more than a dozen humanitarians and donor-country diplomats who spoke to me ahead of the vote, most thought the resolution would be renewed – this time.

But even though a renewal will save lives, it’s also only a temporary reprieve. As the Assad regime returns from the brink, an international system premised on state sovereignty is likewise reasserting itself. In that normal international order, it’s tough to imagine a place for something exceptional like UNSCR 2165 – and without that exception, there’s no good alternative means to help millions of Syrians.

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