You will have seen the bold headings on the news, the graphic images and blurry videos of rows of dead bodies, missiles being fired at civilian buildings and people screaming and running. The world knows that innnocent civilians are being targeted and executed, but what has been done so far, and what can you do about it?
The sich, the 411
To summarise the situation in a paragraph (or two):
The Syrian uprising is a violent internal conflict in Syria, triggered by the “Arab Spring” uprisings which has seen the overturning of the Egyptian government and protests across the Arab world.
The protesters want to overthrow the government, and they are demanding that the current President resigns and holds democratic elections. In response, the Syrian government deployed the Syrian army to quell the uprisings, resulting in several cities being besieged. Civilians and army defectors have formed fighting units in response to the Syrian Army’s attacks, and the Syrian Army has been accused of targeting and killing civilians.
To date, the UN estimates that up to 20,000 people have been killed, and many more have been imprisoned.
Why has nothing happened so far?
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Syrian government on the crackdown on its own civilians; however for the United Nations requires a Security Council resolution to pass to authorise any intervention in Syria. Following the General Assembly resolution, the draft Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government failed as it was vetoed by both China and Russia. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to renewed calls for the Security Council to be reformed as the vetoes were widely perceived to be Russia and China acting in self-interest.
Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting, the UN is getting lambasted for its inaction, and ordinary Syrians are dying while the world is wringing its hands wondering what the next move is.
UN Youth New Zealand’s role
Posting messages on our Facebook wall telling us to do stuff isn’t going to cut it – UN Youth New Zealand is a volunteer-run educational organisation. We aim to educate and empower young New Zealanders so that they are equipped to make a difference in the world. Military intervention doesn’t really fit well with our university schedules – sorry.
If by attending our Model UN events, young New Zealanders understand the mechanisms of the United Nations and how diplomatic/political tensions and differing ideologies of states can affect the operation of those mechanisms then that makes our work as educators worthwhile.
If by getting to know fellow UN Youth members and attending our events, young New Zealanders are inspired and empowered with a strong voice to speak up about these issues and know how they can play their part in making a difference, our work is done.
What can you do about it?
Upset? Angry? Wondering how such atrocities are happening in the 21st century? GOOD.
Wanting to do something about it? EVEN BETTER.
Here are some suggestions on what you can do to make a difference:
I RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT THE SITUATION
I don’t mean recapping the number of deaths like you see in the media today – that’s not news! How many people do you think are aware of how this conflict began, why there has been no intervention to date? Do they fully understand how horrific even the idea of a government turning on its civilians is? They aren’t just deaths from a war somewhere far away – these are people being killed in their own homes for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Peaceful protesters being mowed down by the very army that is supposed to protect them. People being denied access to water, food, electricity and medical care because their own army has barricaded in the city they live in. Disturbed and a little uncomfortable? I fecking hope so.
II POLITICAL PRESSURE
I encourage you all to sign the petitions on Avaaz.org calling for the EU to impose severe economic and political sanctions on Syria and impose an arm embargo. The Syrian state can only continue its activities if they are able to source munitions and other supplies to continue its actions.
I would also encourage you to write to your local MP, to write to the New Zealand delegation at the United Nations to encourage and support them in their efforts.
New Zealand is also bidding for a position on the Security Council in the 2015-16 term. While non-permanent positions on the SC do not have the power of veto, New Zealand has long been an advocate for reform of the Security Council. The hope is that our term on the Security Council acts as a catalyst for Security Council reform, so we do not see a repeat of Syria, where the current political deadlock has lead to the death toll continuing to rise needlessly.
I would also encourage you to support the protesters and civilians, by making a financial contribution towards their basic needs. Perhaps you aren’t in a position to make a financial contribution – make a donation of your time and effort by telling others who are why you think it is important to support the civilians in Syria and encourage them to donate.
Are there any other ways that we can make a difference? Comment below: