WASHINGTON DC – Donor governments, UN agencies, and international NGOs should do more to support and develop civilian survival strategies in Syria, from developing early warning systems to marking unexploded munitions, CIVIC said in a report released today, Waiting for No One: Civilian Survival Strategies. While the recent cessation of hostilities has significantly curbed harm to civilians, more than 360 civilians were killed in the first month of the agreement.

“While diplomatic talks for a lasting peace are underway, the international community can do more to save lives now,” said Natasha Hall, author of the report and program officer for the Middle East and North Africa. “Syrians have developed tactics against air attacks and unexploded ordnance, but the work requires far more assistance to be effective.”

The report examines protection methods in areas that have been subjected to near constant bombardment and ways that the international community can better support them. It is based on interviews with over 90 civilians from every governorate in Syria, local and international NGOs, UN agencies, health professionals, documentation organizations, civil society groups, journalists, and armed groups.

“Just supporting survival strategies is not an alternative to peace,” said Natasha Hall. “But the humanitarian community and donors can do more to support locally created solutions to protect civilians on the ground.”  The report’s recommendations are intended as interim steps to provide real times solutions in a protracted conflict.

Tactics that urgently need support to be more effective include: the development of early warning systems, physical protection of civilian infrastructure including schools and medical facilities, local rescue and aid teams, efforts to mark and dispose of unexploded ordnance, and the creation of a secure platform to share protection strategies.

The gap in physical protection will be difficult to fill. One reason is the near impossibility for international NGO workers to access much of the country. Another significant factor is the lack of a single, specific entity tasked with physical protection of Syrians and civilian infrastructure from bombardment. More activities and responsibilities should be given to Syrians on the ground, the report concludes. Outside of Syria, international NGOs should assign experts in physical protection the task of reviewing projects and providing training.

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Notes to editors:

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

For more information, contact Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org.

 

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