Syrian CSOs demand the localisation of aid and increased cross-border assistance to effectively respond to the affected population in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
On the early morning of February 6, 2023, Syrians were awakened by a devastating disaster. Two colossal earthquakes rocked northern Syria and southeastern Türkiye, claiming an estimated 50,000 lives in Türkiye and an additional 6,000 in Syria, with the majority of casualties concentrated in northwest Syria—a region already reeling from a decade-long humanitarian crisis affecting 4.6 million people, including 2.9 million forcibly displaced persons. The immediate impact in northwest Syria resulted in the displacement of over 103,000 people, with a substantial number left without shelter due to the collapse of at least 10,500 buildings in Idlib and northern Aleppo. This has further compounded the challenges faced by the existing 1.9 million people already residing in makeshift IDP camps.
Facing this catastrophe, Syrians found themselves abandoned following years of geopolitical gridlock and an inadequate international system of aid delivery. The situation was cruelly exacerbated by an unjustified delayed response from the United Nations (UN) and the international community, stemming from short-sighted and inflexible policies guiding the UN’s rapid response. This includes the politicisation of cross-border humanitarian aid operations and an unwillingness to base humanitarian interventions on the actual needs rather than the consent of the Syrian regime. The extreme circumstances witnessed in northwest Syria should have activated a rapid UN response under which neither a UN Security Council’s authorization nor the Syrian regime’s consent were needed for the UN to deliver cross-border life-saving humanitarian assistance. As a result, the mounting responsibilities of essential rescue operations, debris clearance, shelter allocation, and aid distribution rested heavily on the shoulders of under-funded local organisations and courageous volunteers, who bore the brunt of the disaster and suffered the loss of homes and family members.
A year has passed since the earthquakes, and civilians in northwest Syria are still enduring its catastrophic humanitarian ramifications spanning the vital sectors of shelter, food, health, education, housing, and access to life-saving assistance. These hardships are intensified by the huge reduction of funding to the humanitarian response in Syria, the absence of meaningful revisions to the cross-border humanitarian assistance legal framework that can protect it from politicisation, and the lack of substantive accountability measures to address and rectify the failures of the international community’s humanitarian intervention to the earthquakes.
Accordingly, we, the undersigned Syrian organisations located inside Syria and in the diaspora, call on all parties to ensure:
The fulfillment of the UN humanitarian mandate and obligations by continuously providing unrestricted and unhindered cross-border delivery of aid and programming through all available border crossings, regardless of the Syrian regime’s consent and without the authorisation of UNSC. This continuation is primarily based on the urgent necessity given that no other viable and sustainable alternative has existed for the past 10 years, and that impartial humanitarian assistance does not amount to an unlawful interference in the sovereign affairs of another state, particularly since its cross-border relief operations are essential to prevent severe suffering of the civilian population located in northern Syria.
The establishment of a comprehensive review into the delayed response of the UN and the international community to the earthquakes in Syria, with an objective of providing a comprehensive and publicly accessible report detailing the legal, political, and logistical considerations that influenced the decision-making process during the first week of the earthquakes. Additionally, the review should seek to formulate actionable policies rectifying the identified issues and mitigating their possible catastrophic impacts, aiming to prevent similar critical delays in Syria and other conflict contexts facing similar compound crises.
The provision of a localized, sustainable, and flexible funding to national CSOs and NGOs in order to support the recovery and resilience of the affected communities in northern Syria, emphasising that such funding should not be contingent on geopolitical considerations and should go beyond a mere redirection of previously existing funding to the ongoing Syria humanitarian response.
The commitment to uphold the principles of Accountability to Affected Population (AAP) in all aid programmes, by actively involving local communities located in northern Syria in the decision-making processes in a way that guarantees transparency, aid effectiveness and the protection of their human rights and dignity.
The safeguarding of the well-being of women and girls facing the aftermath of the earthquakes by adopting a gender sensitive approach in all funding mechanisms and comprehensive
Signatories (in alphabetical order):
 OCHA, North-West Syria: Situation Report. (March 2023). Available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/north-west-syria-situation-report-15-march-2023-enar.
 Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM), IDP Sites Integrated Monitoring Matrix (ISIMM). (July 2023). Available at: https://www.cccmcluster.org/resources/syria-cccm-cluster-idp-sites-integrated-monitoring-matrix-isimm-july-2023.
 Amnesty International, Syria: UN must continue cross-border aid regardless of UN Security Council or Syrian government approval. (May, 2023). Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/6757/2023/en/
 Cross Border Aid into Syria is Legal Campaign. The 2023 Letter. Available at: https://www.crossborderislegal.org/_files/ugd/166212_e8342039d1794a54812386ec69b6906f.pdf