09 September 2013

NGOs make Peace Push for Syria

Zaatari refugee camp. Credit: Oxfam
US Senator John McCain is an unlikely ally for President Obama’s sales pitch to launch a military intervention in Syria. Congress has some time to decide what it will do before it reconvenes, but non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are working in and around Syria are pushing for the US to do more, just not with its military.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a strong statement on Sunday condemning the spectre of US attacks in Syria calling such an intervention “largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people.”

It will be impossible to reach an international consensus, even if there is definitive evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria, says ICG. Much of that is due to the 2003 campaign to invade Iraq based on reported weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be false. More importantly, the group raises concerns that strikes will raise the level of violence and not prove to be an adequate deterrent to chemical weapon use.

“The Syrians we meet are crying out for peace,” agrees Oxfam America president Raymond C. Offenheiser. “Ultimately, there must be a political solution to the crisis. Military intervention should be an option of last resort.”

The number of refugees is now more than 2 million people, said the UN today. There will be a total of 3.5 million refugees by the year’s end, expects the UN. One million of the current refugees are children, estimates Save the Children. The organization’s CEO Carolyn Miles also urged immediate action in and around Syria.

“This is not a crisis we can sit out; it is not going away. The refugee disaster the war in Syria has created is getting far worse, far faster than the world can cope with. It is now critically important world leaders secure humanitarian access across Syria,” she said.

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