UN’s $4bn aid effort in Syria is morally bankrupt

Reinoud Leenders writes: When confronted with criticism of their failure to address Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, UN officials routinely blame a lack of resources. As Stephen O’Brien, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, put it, the UN system is broke, not broken.

Yet UN aid agencies, since stepping up operations in Syria in 2012, have handed lucrative procurement contracts to regime cronies who are known to have bankrolled the very repression and brutality that helped cause the crisis in the first place.

The revelation is as perverse as it is unsurprising, and points to the moral bankruptcy of the UN’s $4bn (£3bn) Syria aid effort to date. It is perverse that UN agencies, which are mandated to reach out to the most vulnerable in Syria’s vicious and protracted civil war, are throwing a lifeline to a regime that has no qualms about burning the entire country just to stay in power.

The UN may not be legally bound to the sanctions imposed on Syrian regime incumbents by the EU or US; it may even argue that such unilateral sanctions are illegal. Yet when several Syrian suppliers of humanitarian goods and services are blacklisted for “aiding the regime’s repression” or for “being close to key figures of the Syrian regime”, UN procurement officials must have known whom they were dealing with. Genuine Syrian businessmen could have told them that some of the UN’s key business partners were, in fact, the regime. [Continue reading…]

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