Explanation of Vote at a Security Council Session on Humanitarian Access in Syria, by U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power,

Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
February 22, 2014


Thank you, Madam President.  At long last the Security Council has spoken clearly and unanimously about the devastating humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria.  For a body that has long been too divided to acknowledge even the basic facts of the horror in Syria, today’s resolution is a long overdue and altogether necessary step towards reality.

Whatever has or has not transpired in this Security Council for the last three years, the Syrian people have had the grave misfortune of living in the real world.

This real world is what was captured in this week’s report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that “more than 173,000 people are believed to be trapped in Ghouta,” including several thousand who have hardly any food and have been given permission by religious authorities to eat cats and dogs.

This real world is what was recounted recently by the Secretary General when he informed this Council of the unspeakable abuses being committed against children, including kidnapping, sexual violence, beatings with whips, electric shocks, and imprisonment without cause.

This real world in Syria today is a medical system that has collapsed; a school system that barely functions; a city of Aleppo that once had 5,000 doctors and now has some 36; a country where a quarter million people are trying to survive in neighborhoods under siege, two and a half million are refugees, and six and a half million are displaced; a country with countless hungry children, untreated infections, shrapnel wounds, and lost limbs; a country where some mothers are denied the nourishment they require to sustain the infants that they hold in their arms.

A country where the bombs continue to fall; the shelling goes on; and the agony deepens.

Some say that all of this is the inevitable consequence of war.  I say it is the result of actions intentionally and willfully taken by specific individuals.  And what those individuals have the power to do, they have the power – and the responsibility – to stop.  Here, I refer to the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Assad, who has put his devotion to preserving power above the welfare of tens of millions of people.  I refer to him and his security forces, who pummel civilian neighborhoods with barrel bombs; his snipers who delight in picking off children who are walking with their parents, so as to watch both suffer unbearably.  And I refer to terrorist groups, like al-Nusra and ISIL, who in the name of revolution have – in parts of Syria – imposed a new terror on Syrians, supplementing Assad’s dictatorial fanaticism with religious fanaticism.

My colleagues, today’s resolution, and the day-to-day reality in Syria are not about politics or ideology.  We came here, as representatives from around the world, to do what we could to try to help people who are in desperate need of help to live and breathe as we do.  That’s all.

It is remarkable to the world that it has taken three years for the Security Council to recognize basic facts and to call for such basic principles of humanity, simply that Syrians in need should not be held under siege, that they should not be bombed by barrel bombs, that they should not be starved.  It is a gross understatement to say it should not have taken this long.

This resolution is important for two reasons.  It has a clear demand for specific and concrete actions and it is a commitment to act in the event of non-compliance. It was a difficult resolution to obtain, but it should not have been. Many of the issues that come before this body are complicated; this is not.

It is because the United States believes that civilians should not be starved, should not be bombed, and should not be denied access to the most basic things required to sustain life that we welcome today’s action by the Security Council.  It is now our fervent hope that this Council will show similar courage to ensure that our unanimous demands result in changes to ease the suffering, especially for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been encircled by snipers and trapped in besieged communities. 

Our goal here today is to ensure that help is received by people who will die without it – and that innocent civilians are not killed while waiting for that assistance to arrive.

It remains to be seen whether our action today will have the beneficial results we intend.  Given its track record to date, the Syrian regime can be trusted only to deny what it has done and lie about what it will do.  Accordingly, I call upon all Council members, and all members of the international community, to join in pressing Damascus – and any actor who fails to comply – to fulfill the terms of this resolution on a comprehensive and urgent basis.  There should be no more broken promises, no more delays, and no more coupling minor concessions with crimes that are so horrific, so systematic, and so recurrent that they have lost some of their power to shock the conscience.

Today, this Council has achieved consensus.  Now we must insist upon action.  Our common security, our common humanity, and our collective conscience demand nothing less.  Thank you.


PRN: 2014/024