Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed nearly a dozen senior figures from United Nations and other international organizations working to address the humanitarian crisis associated with the conflict in Syria. Such an impressive gathering happens rarely, and highlights not just the commitment of the United States to the Syrian people, but also the central role being played by the United Nations and other organizations in responding to the humanitarian needs of people around the world. In the case of Syria, the needs of those affected are daunting: medical care, childhood immunizations, clean water, food, housing, education, and more.
As the Secretary commented prior to the meeting, “I was in the Zaatari camp in Jordan, which is overloaded with people from Syria, just two days ago. They need the help of the world, and it’s my privilege to meet today with the people who are providing that help.” Complex humanitarian crises such as the situation in and around Syria require not just immediate response, but sustained, collaborative international action.
It is just such circumstances that vividly remind us of the crucial value of the United Nations -- of multilateral means of responding to crises, natural and manmade, and of the vital role the United States plays in propelling and sustaining the global response to humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, we have frequent occasion to see these responses in action. In recent years we have witnessed coordinated international responses to natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. We have seen the international community rally quickly to aid the victims of tsunamis and catastrophic flooding. Further from the headlines are the more enduring humanitarian challenges around the world where international organizations, such as the World Food Program and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), work tirelessly to improve the prospects for the most vulnerable populations.
Of course, the United States uses all channels to reach populations in need, including the UN, NGOs, and community-based partners. In Syria, this effort means we are reaching more than 3 million people in need. As yesterday’s meeting with the Secretary underscores, that effort can be amplified and maximized by supporting UN and other international organizations on the ground.