The UN’s Half-Full Glass
With the Security Council deadlocked and relief efforts falling short, Syria seems to be the embodiment of failure on the part of the United Nations. But, in an environment like Syria, in which the prospects for diplomacy are dim, the UN must settle for what it can get and do the most it can to help those in need.
NAIROBI – Families trapped by the fighting in Syria are reportedly eating “salads’’ made of leaves and grass to stave off hunger. According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. Back home, many more face a brutal winter without adequate food, medicine, or shelter. And, as if conditions could not be worse, the country is facing a polio outbreak.
The international response to Syria’s crisis has been nothing short of disastrous. Indeed, Syria seems to be the embodiment of failure on the part of the UN. The Security Council is deadlocked. In Damascus, would-be peacemakers come and go, talking diplomacy but achieving nothing. Relief agencies are blocked from operating where they are needed most.
Yet it is clear that without the UN, the situation would be even worse. Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey would be under even more pressure from the refugees flooding across their borders. And while efforts to achieve a ceasefire have failed, diplomacy has not – at least not entirely. In October, UN inspectors took initial steps to destroy Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpiles and facilities, with the government’s full cooperation.