Money alone can't buy the rebuilding of Syria

In a joint op-ed, the Irish and Norwegian foreign ministers discuss how to put the country back together

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Ten years after its onset, the war in Syria has become one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century. The human cost has been beyond measure. Disturbing moments are seared in our collective consciousness, ranging from shocking chemical weapons attacks to images of doctors working in bombed out hospitals, gross human rights violations and desperate civilians forced to flee their homes.

The sheer scale of the tragedy can overwhelm us. More than 13 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Sixty per cent of the population are struggling to get enough food to eat, according to World Food Programme. More than 5 million Syrians are refugees and over 6 million are internally displaced. An entire generation is growing up with no or limited access to education, and has known only conflict. Human suffering will continue to traumatise new generations of Syrians unless the conflict is brought to an end.

The unresolved conflict continues to lead to immense suffering and increasing humanitarian needs. Even if it is in a less-intense phase than before and the situation on the ground is less unstable than it was, it still hinders development and the return of refugees. Syria, meanwhile, is still fertile ground for terrorist groups, such as ISIS.

As members of the UN Security Council and as facilitators for its work on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Norway and Ireland will continue to champion the people of Syria.

They must receive the support necessary to survive and rebuild their lives. The respective responses of Norway and Ireland to the Syrian conflict has been our largest ever to a single crisis. We will once again pledge our support at the upcoming "Brussels V" conference later this month.

Financial support on its own is not enough. We must also provide humanitarian workers with the safe, secure and unimpeded access they need to reach all the people in need. Hundreds of aid workers have been killed in the course of the conflict. Too often, efforts by aid workers to reach those in need have been frustrated by administrative impediments, or the calculus of geopolitical considerations.

We will continue to advocate tirelessly in the Security Council for humanitarian actors to be given full and unimpeded access to all the people in need in all parts of Syria.

While continued provision of humanitarian assistance and access is vital, only an end to conflict and an inclusive political settlement can bring stability to Syria and end the suffering. There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Security Council Resolution 2254 on a political settlement in Syria provides the framework for a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political process, facilitated by UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and supported broadly by the international community, including with strong support from Norway and Ireland. The inclusion of women and civil society in the peace process is crucial for the best result for the whole population.

Members of the civil society delegation attend the first meeting of the new Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations in Geneva on October 30, 2019. Syria's government may be on board for the UN-brokered review of its constitution, but it will sink the Geneva talks opening on October 30, 2019, before agreeing anything that compromises its authority, experts have said. / AFP / POOL / DENIS BALIBOUSE
Members of the civil society delegation attend the first meeting of the new Syrian Constitutional Committee at the United Nations in Geneva. AFP

To date, we have seen little progress in the efforts to reach a political settlement. We need joint and intensified efforts to implement UN resolutions, first and foremost from the government in Syria and all the Syrian parties, but also from the international community and the countries involved in the country's affairs. The people of Syria deserve nothing less. The region needs it, too.

As we face a second decade of instability, conflict and human suffering, we reiterate our appeal for a lasting, nationwide ceasefire and serious engagement in the political process in Syria, in the spirit of compromise and constructive engagement. Humanitarian aid must reach all the people in need. For the sake of this and future generations of Syrians, we call for an end to this catastrophe, and for everyone to work towards peace.

Simon Coveney is Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide is Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs