Tuesday 26 March 2013

Joint Letter of Appeal to BRICS Leaders on Syria

This statement was issued on 26 March 2013.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, has added his name to a letter urging the BRICS leaders to show solidarity with the people of Syria. The letter calls on the Heads of State and Government to appeal to President Assad to grant the UN unimpeded humanitarian access so that it can reach civilians from across all Syria’s borders with urgent humanitarian aid.

The full text of the letter follows below.

See also the Archbishop’s statement of 25 March 2013, available on line at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2013/03/brics-summit-must-press-assad-to-allow.html.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman 021 763 1320 (office hours)


H.E. Ms. Dilma Roussef, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
H.E. Mr. Vladimir V. Putin, President of the Russian Federation
H.E. Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India
H.E .Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China
H.E. Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa

One year ago at your summit in Delhi, the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - joined together to express “deep concern at the current situation in Syria” and called for “an immediate end to all violence and violations of human rights in that country.”

Tragically, that call was not heeded.

Since March 29, 2012 when the BRICS Delhi Declaration was adopted, the death toll in Syria has risen from 9,000 to more than 70,000.(1) The UN estimates that 4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid and nearly 3 million people are internally displaced or are refugees, two-thirds of these are women and children.(2) With 8,000 Syrians now fleeing every day, the total number of refugees could triple to 3 million by the end of the year at current rates.(3)

The people of Syria are living a nightmare of death, injury, illegal detention, rape, torture and displacement. Schools and hospitals have been targeted, children as young as eight have been used as human shields, and one in every three Syrian children has been injured or shot at.(4) The conflict has already spilled over into neighboring states, and poses a substantial threat to regional stability with ramifications that could last for decades. Yet while efforts to bring a halt to the conflict appear stalled, the humanitarian response to mitigate this crisis remains dramatically insufficient and under resourced.

Extensive food aid distribution and shelter are urgently needed, as well as essential medical care, and education. Yet the UN, uniquely mandated to coordinate international humanitarian assistance, is fundamentally limited in its ability to respond, hampered by both internal and external movement restrictions. Combined with a lack of full funding for record breaking appeals, this means that the basic humanitarian needs of millions of Syrians are not being met.

As you meet in Durban, the BRICS countries should demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Syria and take meaningful steps to address the plight of Syria’s people. We urge you to make a public appeal to President Assad to grant the UN unimpeded humanitarian access so that it can reach civilians from across all Syria’s borders; anytime and anywhere. The appeal to the Syrian government could be joined by a call on armed opposition groups to grant safe passage to relief convoys and personnel into the territories within their control.

While the Syrian government has granted the UN permission to undertake limited aid deliveries across conflict lines, it has not yet responded to frequent UN calls for full humanitarian access to the country from across all of its borders. Enabling the UN full access is the only way to ensure a coordinated, impartial response that can effectively address the escalating humanitarian crisis throughout Syria. It is also an appeal that accords with international humanitarian law, under which the parties to a conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.

Urgent action must be taken now to ease the suffering of millions of Syrians.

We strongly believe this appeal to grant the UN unfettered humanitarian access is one on which BRICS countries can come together to encourage the Syrian government to ensure that the UN is able to fulfill its essential humanitarian role.

Yours sincerely,

Zackie Achmat, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Human Rights Activist, Director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, South Africa
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Head and Founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia
Anuradha M. Chenoy, Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawahalrlal Nehru University, India
Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawahalrlal Nehru University, India
Valdir Cimino, President of the Association Viva e Deixe Viver, Brazil
Patrick Craven, National Spokesperson, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South Africa
Maja Daruwala, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, India
Anton Du Plessis, Executive Director (acting) of the Institute for Security Studies
Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, South Africa
Svetlana Gannushkina, Chair of the Civic Assistance Committee, Russia
Arjun Katoch, Former Senior Officer of the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, India
The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Bonita Meyersfeld, Director, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, South Africa.
Sipho Mthathi, Coordinator of the South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS), South Africa
Lucia Nader, Executive Director of Conectas Direitos Humanos, Brazil
Jay Naidoo, Chairperson of the Global Alliance for Improve Nutrition, former Minister in the Cabinet of President Nelson Mandela, South Africa
Pritish Nandy, Author and Journalist, former Member of the Indian Parliament, India
Andrei Nekrasov, Film Maker, Russia
Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza, Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, former Commissioner and Head of the Investigative Unit and Witness Protection Programme of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South Africa
Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director of the All-Russia Public Movement “For Human Rights”, Member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Member of the Human Rights Council of Russia, Russia
Rubens Ricupero, Former Secretary General of UNCTAD (1995-2004), former Brazilian Minister of Finance (1994), Brazil
K.C. Singh, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, India
Yasmin Sooka, Former Commissioner on the South African Truth Commission, former Member of the Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, current Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights, South Africa
Dr. Yolanda Spies, Director of the Master of Diplomatic Studies Programme, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Mandeep Tiwana, Policy and Advocacy Manager of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, South Africa

(1) http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/12/us-syria-crisis-un-idUSBRE91B19C20130212
(2) http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/06/syria-refugees-women-and-children-forgotten-_n_2817654.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
(3) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21733331
(4) http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Emergencies/Syria%202013/UNICEF%20Syria%20Two%20Year%20Report%20March%202013.pdf