The United States supports the Syrian people’s aspirations for a Syrian-led transition to a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful Syria. Over nearly two years of unrest and violence, the United Nations estimates that 60,000 Syrians have been killed. Nearly 600,000 Syrians have registered or are awaiting registration in neighboring countries, while an additional 2.5 million persons are internally displaced and 4 million people inside Syria are in need of assistance. The Syrian regime has sacrificed all legitimacy in a vicious effort to cling to power. U.S. assistance includes vigorous diplomatic support of the newly formed Syrian Opposition Coalition, humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict, and non-lethal support for local councils and civil society inside Syria.
The United States continues to support the Syrian people as the newly-formed Syrian Opposition Coalition sets a course toward the peaceful, democratic, inclusive future that the people of Syria deserve. We are working with other nations to further isolate the regime and support the Syrian people’s calls for President Assad to step down. We and our international partners actively supported the efforts of the Syrian people to launch the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Doha in November. On December 12, the Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Marrakesh helped to ensure that our assistance responds to the most pressing needs of the Syrian people in coordination with the Syrian Opposition Coalition and Syria-based unarmed opposition groups.
The Assad regime’s war on its own civilian population over the past two years has precipitated a critical humanitarian crisis. The United States is providing $210 million in humanitarian aid to assist conflict-affected Syrians inside Syria and those who have fled to neighboring countries, the majority of whom are residing among local communities. Assistance is channeled both through contributions to U.N. and other international agencies as well as partner non-governmental organizations. We continue to develop ways for humanitarian assistance – provided on the basis of need and not political affiliation – to reach previously inaccessible areas inside Syria where continuing violence has created urgent humanitarian needs, especially growing shortages of food and fuel.
U.S. funds are providing urgently needed food, clean water, medical supplies and emergency medical care for thousands of Syrians living in neighboring countries through UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF and through non-government organizations. Details of United States’ humanitarian support to the Syrian people are regularly updated and can be found at: www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.
Transition Support to the Unarmed Opposition
The United States is also providing approximately $50 million in non-lethal support to the unarmed Syrian opposition and civil society groups, including local councils and grassroots organizations. This assistance provides training and equipment to the Syrian non-violent opposition to build up a nation-wide network of ethnically and religiously diverse civilian activists, which will help promote unity among the Syrian people and accelerate the country’s democratic transition. Our assistance seeks to build the capacity of local councils and grassroots organizations and supports their efforts to respond to the needs of their communities and mobilize ongoing non-violent protest movements. These resources aim to help Syrian non-violent opposition groups sustain their activities through strengthening civil society, media and democratic transition planning.
Support to civil society groups and local councils includes efforts to train, equip and build the capacity of grassroots activists and opposition groups – including women and youth – primarily inside the country; develop existing and emerging groups’ abilities to mobilize citizens, share information and build networks, provide services to their communities, and undertake civic functions; support interreligious and communal dialogues to encourage strong citizen participation in shaping the transition’s trajectory; develop women’s leadership capacity to play a robust role in the transition; support professional human rights documentation and transitional justice workshops, and prepare for Syria’s political transition and lay the foundation for future accountability efforts.
Support to independent media projects includes community radio stations providing information for refugees about available services, training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists to support their ability to document, package, and disseminate information on developments inside Syria and provide independent news reporting; and technical assistance and equipment to enhance the information and communications security of Syrian activists within Syria.
Assistance in support of democratic transition planning includes efforts to facilitate linkages between unarmed opposition elements inside Syria with supporters outside the country; resources to help establish the Syria Justice and Accountability Center as an independent entity that documents human rights abuses and coordinates transitional justice and accountability efforts among Syrian and international groups; and facilitating Syrian activists’ participation in political and economic transition planning, to facilitate the active engagement of the business community in transition processes, and technical assistance to emerging political parties within the country.