The United States supports the Syrian people’s aspirations for a democratic, inclusive, and unified Syria. President Bashar al-Asad has proven through his brutal and repressive tactics that he cannot lead Syria’s transition. His continued tenure only inflames tensions throughout the region and fuels extremism on both sides of the conflict.
The United Nations estimates that more than 130,000 people have been killed since the unrest and violence began over two years ago. The number of civilians fleeing Syria and seeking refuge in neighboring countries has increased sharply as violence has escalated. More than 2.2 million people affected by the conflict are now refugees in neighboring countries while, inside Syria, an additional 6.5 million people are displaced and 9.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN Security Council has condemned the Asad regime’s denial of humanitarian relief access to these civilians in need and urged immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations throughout the country.
At the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait January 15, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would contribute an additional $380 million to Syrian humanitarian relief efforts – bringing the total U.S. humanitarian commitment to more than $1.7 billion, the largest of any nation. These resources support international and non-governmental organizations assisting those affected by the conflict both inside Syria and across the region.
The United States is also providing nearly $260 million in direct non-lethal support to the moderate Syrian opposition. This assistance is helping the Syrian Opposition Coalition, local opposition councils and civil society groups provide essential services to their communities, extend the rule of law, and enhance stability inside liberated areas of Syria. These funds are also being used to provide non-lethal assistance to moderate factions of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army, which is contesting extremist groups for leadership of the struggle against the Asad regime.
Diplomatic Support to End the Conflict
Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis are based on the Final Communiqué of the 30 June 2012 Action Group meeting in Geneva. The process set forth by the Communiqué is supported by the United States and the broad partnership of nations known as the “London 11” that are pressing for a negotiated political solution to the Syria conflict. The U.S. has been working vigorously to advance Syria’s transition through the “Geneva II” international conference based on the Communique: the establishment of a transitional governing body formed by mutual consent, exercising full executive powers over all government institutions. The transitional governing body will also be charged with establishing a national dialogue, reviewing the constitutional order and legal system, and preparing for and conducting free and fair elections.
Simultaneous U.S. diplomatic efforts are helping coordinate the provision of assistance with other partners and allies in support of the Syrian opposition. Diplomatic efforts also seek to further isolate the regime, both politically and through comprehensive sanctions; to support the Syrian people’s calls for an end of Asad’s rule; and to reinforce the Syrian opposition’s vision of a democratic post-Asad Syria.
The United States and the international community are working tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the brutal conflict in Syria. At the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait on January 15, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would continue to increase its humanitarian contributions for those affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria. About half of the more than $1.7 billion in U.S. humanitarian assistance is being distributed to organizations working inside Syria, with the balance going to assist those affected by the conflict who have fled to other countries, and to the communities that host them.
The United States is providing emergency medical care and supplies, shelter, food, clean water, relief supplies, access to education and protection – including activities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence – to those affected by the crisis inside Syria and in neighboring countries. U.S. assistance supports the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other international and nongovernmental organizations, both within Syria and within the regional refugee response in Lebanon (more than $76 million), Jordan (more than $61 million), Iraq (nearly $20 million), Turkey (nearly $31 million) and Egypt (more than $12 million).
In response to growing incidents of gender-based violence during the conflict, the U.S. is also providing psychosocial support for women and children from Syria through women’s health centers, mobile clinics and outreach workers. In September 2013, Secretary Kerry launched an initiative to help humanitarian agencies hire staff and develop programs to protect women and girls in global emergencies, including Syria. The U.S. is also building awareness and support for survivors of gender based violence into its broader assistance programming for those affected by the conflict.
Within Syria, U.S. humanitarian assistance is reaching more than 4.2 million people across all 14 of the country’s governorates through the United Nations, international and non-governmental organizations, and local Syrian organizations, as well as in coordination with the Syrian Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). To ensure the safety of recipients and humanitarian workers and to guard against assistance being blocked while en route to beneficiaries, U.S. humanitarian assistance is often not branded or marked. The U.S. supports approximately 260 field hospitals and makeshift clinics across Syria. These facilities have treated nearly one million patients and performed more than 190,000 surgeries. To meet the need for more medical staff capable of saving lives, the U.S. trained more than 1,500 volunteers inside Syria to provide emergency first aid care.
The United States continues to work closely with governments in the region hosting refugees fleeing Syria. For more details on the U.S. humanitarian response to the Syria crisis and what U.S. humanitarian assistance is being provided, visit www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.
Non-lethal Transition Assistance to the Syrian Opposition
The United States is working in partnership with the international community to assist the Syrian opposition to meet daily needs, provide essential services, and support a transition and is providing nearly $260 million in non-lethal transition assistance to the moderate opposition. These funds include a $15 million contribution to the multi-donor Syria Recovery Trust Fund. The purpose of this fund is unite and coordinate international donors to help with Syria’s current reconstruction and economic needs in liberated areas and after the formation of a Transitional Governing Body.
Assistance is being provided to a range of civilian opposition activists, including local councils, civil society organizations and the Syrian Coalition (SOC) to bolster their institutional capacity, create linkages to among opposition groups inside and outside Syria, and help counter extremism. These efforts enable the Coalition to deliver basic goods and essential services to liberated communities. For example, in close collaboration with the Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), U.S. assistance is being used to procure equipment and critical supplies for prompt disbursement to communities inside Syria. This equipment includes generators to power water pumps and bakeries; ambulances to reinstate emergency medical services; crane, dump, and fire trucks for urban sanitation and civil defense; and water storage units to provide access to potable water. Other critical supplies provided through this assistance include educational kits for teachers, students and school administrators, winterization materials including blankets and heaters and commodity baskets for needy families. These efforts help the national-level opposition groups provide for the needs of local communities.
Through a series of small cash and in-kind grants, the U.S. is helping to strengthen grassroots organizations and local administrative bodies– a foundation of democratic governance – as they step in to fill the void left by the regime and provide basic services, including emergency power, sanitation, water, and educational services to their communities. Some of this assistance is being directed to maintain public safety, extend the rule of law, and enhance the provision of justice to improve local stability and prevent sectarian violence.
U.S. non-lethal assistance includes training and equipment to build the capacity of a network of over 2,000 grassroots activists, including women and youth, from more than 100 opposition councils and organizations from around the country to link Syrian citizens with the Syrian opposition and local councils. This support enhances the linkages between Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and independent media outlets and empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning.
Support to independent media includes assistance to community radio stations providing news, including information for refugees about available services; training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists to support their documentation and dissemination of information on developments in Syria; and technical assistance and equipment to enhance the information and communications security of Syrian activists within Syria. U.S. technical and financial assistance to the ACU’s Media Unit is supporting the Coalition’s outreach to Syrians through the internet; local, independent radio stations; and satellite television.
The United States continues to assist in laying the groundwork for accountability by supporting the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center’s efforts to document violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides of the conflict, and by bolstering the capacity of civil society organizations to build the foundations for lasting peace. The United States also works at the grassroots levels with groups and individuals across a broad spectrum of Syria’s diverse religious and ethnic communities to empower women, religious leaders, youth, and civil society to advocate for their communities, build trust, tolerance, and mitigate conflict.
In addition to this transition assistance, the U.S. has been increasing direct non-lethal assistance to the SMC since the spring of 2013 along supply lines periodically contested by the regime or extremist fighters. To date, this includes over 408,000 halal food rations, vehicles and over three tons of medical supplies as well as planned deliveries of satellite access equipment, laptops, radio communication equipment, and medical kits to moderate SMC elements.
Assistance to the International Effort to Eliminate Syria’s Chemical Weapons
The United States remains firmly committed to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, as outlined in the U.S.-Russia Framework and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118. The process of removing chemical weapons from Syria for destruction as begun. To this end, the United States has contributed tens of millions of dollars in assistance to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)–UN Joint Mission to safely package and remove chemical weapons materials from Syria for elimination by the international community. U.S. assistance includes outfitting a U.S. ship with proven hydrolysis technology to neutralize safely at sea the most dangerous of Syria’s chemical agents and precursors. For more information please click here: http://www.state.gov/t/217199.htm
Additional Support for the Syrian People
To help Syrians begin to rebuild, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Statement of Licensing Policy inviting U.S. persons to apply for specific licenses to participate in certain economic activities in Syria. The OFAC Statement focused on applications to engage in oil-related transactions that benefit the Syrian Coalition, or its supporters, and transactions involving Syria’s agricultural and telecommunications sectors. OFAC also amended Syria General License 11 to authorize the exportation of services and funds transfers in support of not-for-profit activities to preserve and protect cultural heritage sites in Syria.
A new limited waiver of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 authorizes the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to process license applications for the export and re-export of certain commodities, software, and technology for the benefit of the Syrian people, including but not limited to: water supply and sanitation; agricultural production and food processing; power generation; oil and gas production; construction and engineering; transportation; and educational infrastructure.
The United States continues to engage Syrians directly, offering academic advising to young people hoping to study in the United States and opportunities to participate in State Department exchanges and other outreach programs. The State Department is also working with a range of Syrian, American, and international partners to protect Syria’s rich cultural heritage – including archaeological sites, historic buildings, monuments, and collections of objects – and to halt the trade of looted Syrian cultural property in international antiquities markets. See http://icom.museum/resources/red-lists-database/red-list/syria/ for more information.
The State Department maintains an active dialogue to coordinate policy and assistance for Syria with a broad cross-section of Syrian opposition groups, including with the Syrian Coalition offices in Turkey and the United States. The American people, including Syrian-Americans, have contributed generously and have organized to provide assistance to Syrians in need.
The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for disaster responses to help Syrians in crisis can be found at www.cidi.org.