Mr President,

We thank you for organising this debate, which reinforces the transparency and accountability of the Security Council to the General Assembly. We welcome the transmission of a special report by the Security Council on the exercise of the veto in this regard. Elected by this Assembly to sit on the Security Council for the first time in its history, Switzerland has long been committed to improving the Council’s working methods, in favour of accountability, transparency and coherence.

We regret, however, that for the second time since the adoption of resolution 76/262 last year, this debate is held on the issue of cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria. At a time when humanitarian needs are greater than ever, millions of people in north-west Syria are plunged into uncertainty by the current impasse. The international community must find a solution to meet the needs of these people.

Mr President,

As co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file since the beginning of the year, Brazil and Switzerland have been in contact with all the members of the Council, the countries of the region, the members of this Assembly and humanitarian actors. We engaged inclusively, constructively and in good faith, and spared no efforts to accommodate their different concerns and reach a consensus on the draft resolution that is the subject of this debate. We were guided by a single objective: to ensure that people in need continue to receive the humanitarian aid they depend on every day, in the most difficult of circumstances. We were also guided by the operational needs of humanitarian actors to maintain rapid and unhindered access.

We thank all the members of the Council who supported this approach, which rejects any politicisation of humanitarian aid. In particular, the ten elected members showed unity and spared no effort in seeking compromise.

The draft resolution resulting from these efforts was a compromise acceptable to the vast majority of Security Council members. All humanitarian actors, including the Secretary-General, stressed that a twelve-month mandate would provide humanitarian actors with the predictability they needed to plan their operations. Although we heard and supported their call, we made another compromise for a nine-month extension in order to find common ground. This timeline would have allowed to bridge the harsh winter months. However, this compromise text was not adopted because of a negative vote by a permanent member. Thus, this veto enabled a single member of the Security Council to call into question the extension of the cross-border aid mechanism, the objective of which is purely humanitarian. As a matter of principle, Switzerland is not in favour of using the veto. Even for those who do not share this position, it is difficult to reconcile this use of the veto with the responsibility we all share by having subscribed to the principles and values of the United Nations Charter.

Since 2014, the Security Council has authorised this humanitarian access to people in need in north-west Syria. We have a collective responsibility towards them. We have taken note of the note verbale from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic of 13 July, announcing the decision to open the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to the United Nations. We have also taken note of the fact that this decision can be a basis for the UN to lawfully conduct cross-border humanitarian operations through Bab al-Hawa. However, the wording of the note verbale raises questions under international humanitarian law. The United Nations and its partners must be able to continue to provide assistance to people in need in accordance with international humanitarian law and the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. We recall that authorising and facilitating the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid for civilians in need is an obligation under international humanitarian law.

Switzerland therefore remains committed to working with all stakeholders to find a solution that will allow the continuation of UN cross-border aid that provides assistance to the most vulnerable, including protection services. Millions of people in north-western Syria currently depend on it. Following the expiry of the Security Council’s authorisation, the uncertainty in which these people live is great. It is therefore crucial that we continue to do all we can to ensure that aid continues to reach those in need, without discrimination and for as long as necessary. We welcome this debate as an opportunity for Member States of the General Assembly to reinforce the call for consensus and solutions to meet the humanitarian imperative.

Thank you.