To interview any of the signatories to report, the authors or to speak to UN staff, please contact

[email protected] or Bissan Fakih on +961 71 377 364 [Beirut] or Anna Nolan + 1 646 309 6509 [NYC]


Report accuses UN in Syria of “taking sides” by putting Syrian government in charge of aid from Damascus

14 June, 2016

Over 50 Syrian organisations have backed recommendations to the UN to run a principled, impartial operation in Syria or withdraw cooperation with the Syrian government

Read the full report here:

A 50-page report released today by The Syria Campaign following more than 50 interviews with aid workers, including current and former UN staff, finds the UN in Syria in breach of its humanitarian principles and therefore at risk of fuelling the conflict.

The report, titled “Taking Sides: The United Nations’ loss of impartiality, independence and neutrality in Syria”, documents how from the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the UN provided the Syrian government “with an effective veto over aid deliveries to areas outside of government control, enabling its use of sieges as a weapon of war”.

The report outlines how the organisation’s fear of having visas revoked or being asked to leave Damascus has led to far-reaching and unnecessary capitulations to the Syrian government by the UN, describing “a culture of compliance” among agencies in Damascus. The UN’s failure to set red lines for its operation has weakened its negotiating power with the Syrian government and allowed humanitarian aid to become party to the conflict in Syria. The Syrian government is involved in besieging 99% of the one million Syrians living under siege today.

Those backing the report are calling on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to “draw a line” and set conditions for its relationship with the Syrian government aimed at protecting its humanitarian principles. If those conditions are not met, then the UN must withdraw cooperation with the Syrian government. The report writes that “A UN operation that violates its humanitarian principles becomes party to the conflict and stands accused of doing harm.”

Signatories to the report’s summary and recommendations include the Syria Civil Defence, known as the “White Helmets”, Basmeh and Zeitooneh, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Violations Documentation Center and dozens of Syrian humanitarian organisations, local councils and civil society groups.

Roger Hearn, former head of UN agency UNRWA in Damascus, said

“There has been a systematic failure in the UN led response. Rather than basing its response on need, it has developed into a billion dollar response program that is largely controlled by the regime and its proxies.“

Assaad al-Achi, Director of Baytna Syria, said

“Ban Ki-Moon must restore the UN’s credibility by setting conditions on its relationship with the Syrian government. No side should be able to dictate where aid is going. Food is being used as a weapon of war in Syria. Without humanitarian principles, you simply become an arms dealer. ”

Bissan Fakih from The Syria Campaign said

“The UN has handed the reins of billions of dollars of aid to Bashar al-Assad, the man most responsible for the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions. This isn’t the first time the UN’s lost sight of its principles. However, after its operation came under intense criticism in Sri Lanka, Secretary-General Ban promised that lessons would be learned.

A UN with the backbone to stand for its principles would help get aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians under siege, many of them only a few minutes’ drive from where the UN is based in Damascus. “

Read the full report here:



– An updated list of Syrian signers can be viewed here:

– The Syria Campaign advocates for the protection of civilians by elevating the demands of Syrians inside the country trapped between dictatorship and extremism. The Syria Campaign is fiercely independent and is funded entirely by individuals and foundations.

– Over one million people live under siege according to Siege Watch. The government is involved in besieging 99% of civilians under siege.