Beyond the diversion of aid, those directly responsible for human rights violations would benefit
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s manipulation of aid is a unique and persistent form of control that must be tackled, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Based on interviews with UN officials and aid workers in Syria, the “Rescuing Aid in Syria” report indicates that the Assad regime has unprecedented influence over access for aid groups, including through the through visa approval.
“There are not many situations in our history, where someone who committed mass atrocities at the level of the Assad government remains in power and controls the aid apparatus,” said Natasha Hall, author of the report.
Hall further accused the Assad regime of withholding aid from opponents and channeling it to allies.
On condition of anonymity, a UN official said it was a “massive protection issue, not only for beneficiaries but for other national staff who work with you”. The Guardian reported.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Development Program said the United Nations body found no evidence of having contracted with these entities, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has stated that it “hires its staff based on merit and ability to deliver”.
According to the report, there has been an increase in threats, arbitrary detentions and torture of Syrian aid workers over the past year.
Beyond the diversion of aid, those directly responsible for human rights violations benefit, he added.
“It’s a very perverse cycle that’s created,” Hall said.
Sara Kayyali, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the UN does “no human rights due diligence when hiring people”.
“When you consider that the UN is one of the main ways the money comes into Syria…it plays into the hands of [the regime’s] war economy.