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Civil society groups urge UN action on Syria conflict

The signatories urged for action to end Syria's deadly conflict [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2016

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Over 200 civil society groups signed a declaration on Thursday calling on the UN's General Assembly to address Syria's deadly conflict.
More than 200 humanitarian and human rights groups called on Thursday for the UN General Assembly to address Syria's deadly conflict, citing the Security Council's paralysis in dealing with the crisis.

In a declaration published in New York, the 223 signatories said the Security Council "has failed Syrians" and particularly pointed out its inability to stop the Syrian regime's offensive against east Aleppo.

They called for the 193 member nations of the UN "to request an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, and immediate and unhindered humanitarian access" to besieged civilians.

The UN members also should find a way to bring those responsible for serious crimes under international law in Syria to justice, the declaration said.

Under a 1950 resolution dubbed "Uniting for Peace," the General Assembly adopted the authority to skirt the Security Council when it proves incapable of preserving peace and international security.

The resolution has been invoked eight times in efforts to resolve crises where the Security Council is at impasse, such as in the Korean crisis in 1950, the Congo in 1960, and Afghanistan in 1980 following the Russian invasion.

But the powers of the resolution are limited, and its results have been mixed.

Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, Russia has wielded its Security Council veto on Syria-related resolutions five times, and China has done so four times.

Unlike the 15-member Security Council, there is no veto in the General Assembly, but its decisions are not binding.

The General Assembly, however, can put pressure on countries to act unilaterally: an assembly resolution in 1981, for example, spurred certain countries to impose sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa.

The initiative on Thursday by civil society organisations joins an effort launched by Canada, which already has mobilised 73 countries to demand an emergency special session of the General Assembly on Syria.

That meeting should be held "at the earliest opportunity, as UN member states have done in the past when the Security Council was deadlocked," the organizations said.

Among the groups from 45 countries that signed the declaration are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, CARE International, Save the Children and 63 Syrian organisations.

France, which has gathered the support of about 100 countries, is spearheading a movement aimed at linking Security Council veto power to moral issues.

The veto should not be used in cases of mass atrocities, when the need for action is urgent, the French government argues.

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