In the tenth year of the Syrian conflict, two thirds of Syria's population are reliant on humanitarian aid. The ongoing armed conflict has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Over half a million people, mostly civilians, have been killed and countless others have been injured. Violations of international humanitarian law are frequent: civil infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, is not spared by the conflict. Millions of people have inadequate access to water, food or medical care. Six million people have fled the country, five million of whom to Syria's neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, continued fighting and administrative and operational restrictions are hampering the implementation of humanitarian actions.
Syria's humanitarian situation was fragile even before the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, but the global pandemic now poses an additional threat to millions of people. Many of these people have no or inadequate access to clean water, which further exacerbates the risk of epidemics. To prevent the situation getting even worse for the affected population, the EU and the UN hold an annual conference in Brussels on the situation in Syria. At the fourth meeting of the conference – which took place on 30 June in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 crisis – the international community pledged USD 7.7 billion. In the presence of Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, Switzerland also reaffirmed its commitment, pledging CHF 61 million for the second year running to support people in need in Syria and the surrounding neighbouring countries.
As a geopolitical and humanitarian hotspot on Europe's doorstep, the ongoing Syrian conflict also directly affects Switzerland's foreign policy and security policy interests. Switzerland not only provides financial support for the needy population in Syria, it also works to advocate peacebuilding, in particular efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, Switzerland is committed to promoting respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, and to combating impunity. It is the host country of the UN peace process in Geneva. At the same time, the civil war in Syria is an important issue for the UN Security Council in the area of peace and security, and as such is also crucial to Switzerland's candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2023–24.
Switzerland is also committed to respecting and promoting international humanitarian law and human rights, and to combating impunity. In this context, Switzerland, together with the ICRC, organised a discussion on the fate of arrested and missing persons in Syria in the run-up to the conference. Tens of thousands of Syrians are considered missing as a result of the conflict. This represents a great burden for the people concerned, their families and society. The event discussed concrete approaches to support affected families and prevent new cases.
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