Speech by ICRC vice president, Madame Christine Beerli, at the "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" conference in Brussels.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It's an honour to address you here, today. First, I'd like to thank the organisers of the conference, the donors who give their invaluable support and all those who're doing their best to help Syria and the Syrian people. It makes a huge difference. For many, it makes the difference between life and death.
Only yesterday, we saw the terrible suffering that civilians are going through with the use of chemical weapons in the province of Idlib. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.
We must remind all parties to the conflict that such weapons are absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law, and all sides must refrain from using them.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you forgive me, I'm going to be quite blunt in my comments today.
Six years after the beginning of one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history, we're still waiting for the bells of peace to toll. We're still here trying to protect the most vulnerable.
There've been too many false dawns.
Talks have been held. Talks have come to an end. Ceasefires have been called. Ceasefires have ended.
And the agony goes on. People bleed. Children cry. And so it goes on. Enough, really is, enough.
We, the humanitarian workers, do our best - sometimes in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances. We draw attention to the suffering. We help relieve some of that suffering. We provide clean drinking water; we provide shelter from the heat - or the cold; we provide food; we sew up people when their limbs are ripped from their bodies. We attend conferences like this. Yes, we do a lot. But there's a limit.
We, ourselves, cannot bring a permanent end to that suffering. That task belongs to others. In fact, it belongs to you. The politicians. The decision-makers.
The people of Syria now need conclusion.
I appeal to you: work for peace, day and night. Fight for the prize of peace. And not for some inferior, half-baked, inconclusive peace but, rather, one that provides solutions, that provides dignity, that provides safety and security for all people. Work for a viable and sustainable political solution.
And whilst you are doing this, consider the here and now. Can you do something now to make things a little bit better? Yes, you can.
Talk to your friends and colleagues and allies. Those other decision-makers. Those 'other people' who can make a difference. Tell them the following:
- stop attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure
- don't use heavy explosive weapons in densely populated areas
- don't force people to leave their homes – and allow them to return in safety when they wish to
- maintain the dignity of those detained
- do not make humanitarian aid dependent on political agreement - the two should not be linked. A victim is a victim – no matter what side they're on.
And, yes, give access to the genuine humanitarian worker who's there to give food and water and health care to those desperate people - from whatever side they are on.
Do these things, and you will save lives. Do these things and you will make the road to peace and reconciliation easier when, finally, the guns fall silent. So, yes, you can make a difference now. It's actually not that difficult.
Ladies and gentlemen, maybe you began your diplomatic careers full of idealism, full of optimism, of changing things, of making things better. Maybe you have become cynical, realistic, practical, hard-bitten as your careers have developed. Now is your opportunity to really make a difference. Seize it.
In the name of our common humanity, examine your own consciences, your own power, your own ability to change things.
For how much longer do the Syrian people have to cry?
For how much longer do they have to scream in silence?