Amnesty International Coalition Demands Resolution to "Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time"

Press Release
January 22, 2014

Amnesty International Coalition Demands Resolution to "Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time"

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, office: 202-675-8761, cell: (703) 389-1723, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - "The Syrian Government is meeting for the first time with representatives from the Syrian Opposition in what will hopefully be the first steps towards a sustainable peace.

Meanwhile, millions of Syrians are enduring a second winter displaced from their homes. Half of the country is now dependent on humanitarian aid and millions of people still cannot access life saving assistance. In some areas, disease and starvation are rife. The current situation is unacceptable and defies the basic norms of a civilized world.

Agreeing a negotiated peace is going to be difficult; however, committing to ensuring humanitarian aid reaches all those in need shouldn’t be.

As a coalition of some of the world’s largest humanitarian and human rights organizations, we call on the international community to stand up for the people of Syria who are enduring the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.

The reputation of the United Nations and the member states of the Security Council are at risk unless they can show the resolve and responsibility needed to end the crisis and until that time take steps to ensure humanitarian assistance quickly reaches those who need it."

Signed:

Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International
Helene Gayle, CEO, CARE USA
Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO, Mercy Corps
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International
Jasmine Whitbread, CEO, Save the Children International
Kevin Jenkins, President, World Vision

Notes for Editors:

The CEOs are co-hosting a private breakfast with political, business and media leaders as well as holding high level meetings with senior representatives of countries with influence over the conflict and will be available for reaction and response to events at Geneva 2 peace talks throughout the week.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:

"The devastating consequences of the crisis in Syria are mounting on a daily basis. The opportunity presented by the Geneva II peace conference is one that must not be missed, which is why it is more important than ever that the issue of humanitarian access is not allowed to slip off the agenda."

Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO, CARE USA, said:

‘In our work with Syrians affected by the conflict, CARE sees the incredible toll the war is taking on women and girls in particular, depriving them of safety, education, health care, and—in some cases—their lives. We call on all parties to prioritize and permit unhindered access to address the needs of vulnerable women and girls, both inside and outside Syria. We must also do more to support host communities in neighboring countries to better cope with the influx of refugees.”

Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO, Mercy Corps, said:

“As we enter the fourth year of war in Syria, we must do more to relieve the intense human suffering of millions of people in the region. We must shore up Syria’s neighbors. The years-long conflict and accompanying humanitarian crisis are destabilizing the entire region, with the potential to leave millions more people without homes and jobs and rob an entire generation of its future.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, said:

“While negotiations will not resolve the crisis overnight, they should instead deliver a clear timeline and process for doing so. Time will fly this week – and every second in Montreux counts. The litmus test for success is clear. We need to see an immediate halt to the violence, which is tearing Syria apart, and concrete steps for improving the humanitarian situation. Whatever comes out of the talks, strides must be made to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of ordinary Syrians – this cannot be used as a political bargaining chip. All those people in desperate need, including in besieged towns and communities, must be able to access life-saving aid – the government and opposition must agree this as an absolute priority.”

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, said:

“Children in Syria have suffered immeasurably during this conflict, many of them having suffered torture and violence, or having witnessed it first-hand. We want parties at Geneva II to prioritise the needs of children and civilians in Syria and to ensure as a minimum, that humanitarian access is allowed, so that life-saving aid can reach them. We want to see a commitment to ensuring schools and health facilities are not targeted, and steps taken to end the use of explosive weapons in areas where civilians are likely to be maimed and killed.”

Kevin Jenkins, President, World Vision, said:

"The Syrian emergency is among the greatest tests in our generation of leadership and our humanity. We have little time left to do well in either dimension and must urgently unite for the sake of the children of Syria."

Contact Details for Interview Requests -
Human Rights Watch -Contact - Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director, Stroeha@hrw.org, +32 485 555 946
Amnesty International -Contact - Dawn Rennie, PR Manager, dawn.rennie@amnesty.org, +44 (0)203 036 5941/ +44 (0)7904 398285
Mercy Corps -Contact - Andie Long, Senior Communications Officer, along@sea.mercycorps.org, +1 (503) 702-8578. Based in Seattle (GMT-8)
CARE USA -Contact - Laura Sheahen, Senior Communication Officer, lsheahen@care.org, +1.404.667.8299
Save the Children -Contact - Alice Macdonald, Advocacy Manager +44 (0) 7920503318, alice.macdonald@savethechildren.org
World Vision -Contact - Nigel Marsh, +44 (0)782 793 8780, nigel_marsh@wvi.org / Caleb Starrenburg, Caleb_Starrenburg@wvi.org, +41 79 930 81 38
Oxfam -Contact - Matt Grainger, Head of Media, matt.grainger@oxfaminternational.org, +44 7730 680 837

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.