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Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews the situation of Children in Syria

Committee on the Rights of the Child 

16 January 2019

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its examination of the fifth periodic report of Syria on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Hussam Edin Aala, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report, said that the reporting period covered an exceptional period in Syria during which it had suffered from a multifaceted war, whose main victims were children.  All necessary measures were being taken to protect the citizens and defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said, reaffirming Syria’s openness to any true effort towards a political solution where the people would decide on their future without any foreign interference.  Numerous child protection mechanisms and institutions had been created, such as the Unit for Family Protection set up in 2017, and laws that aimed at implementing the national vision and the provisions of the Convention had been adopted.  The law on juveniles aimed at correcting the behaviour of children and protecting their best interests, steps had been taken to promote the care for children with disabilities and their families, and serious efforts had been invested in continuing the educational process that was disrupted by the activities of terrorist groups.  The civil status law had been amended to facilitate registration for Syrians inside the country and abroad.  In closing, Mr. Aala decried unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria by some countries, which had had a detrimental impact on children in particular; the continued politicization of the humanitarian situation in Syria which rejected terrorism as the cause of suffering in the country; and the lack of humanitarian funding and support for the rehabilitation and return of displaced persons to Syria.

During the dialogue, Committee Experts referred to United Nations sources and reports that had identified thousands of Syrian children who had been killed and maimed, noting with concern that more than half of those had been victims of the Government’s aerial attacks.  There were verified reports of the turning off of water and electricity supplies to several besieged towns by the Government, and the systematic denial of aid, particularly in hard-to-reach areas, with devastating impact on civilians and children in particular.  There were also widespread and consistent reports on torture and inhuman treatment of children, such as mutilation, sexual violence, and the death of children in detention.  The delegation was asked to comment on how those actions related to Syria’s obligations under the Convention, explain how the best interest of the child was integrated in military operations, and outline measures in place to render the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment effective and identify and prosecute perpetrators.  Experts recognized the devastating impact of the conflict on the health system and on the mental health of children in particular, and asked about concrete steps taken to protect budgetary allocations for children – especially health and education - and ensure that all children, including displaced ones, realized their right to education.  Experts expressed concern about the upsurge in child marriages as a result of the crisis and about the legal age of marriage that differed for girls and boys, and inquired about concrete steps to close the gaps in the legal framework which discriminated against certain groups of children in inheritance, nationality, and parental recognition.

Amal Aldoseri, Member of the Committee’s Task Force on Syria, concluded by recognizing the challenging situation in Syria caused by the crisis and the resulting difficulties in delivering on its international commitments, and stressed that such a situation could not waive Syria’s responsibilities towards its children.

Mr. Aala, in his concluding remarks, said that Syria was in the final phases of the war and was intent on liberating all of its territory from terrorists and invaders.  Syria was aware that the next period would pose a new set of challenges. 

The delegation of Syria consisted of representatives of the Syrian Commission of Family Affairs and Population, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, and the Permanent Mission of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 16 January at 3 p.m. to review the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Japan (CRC/C/JPN/4-5).

Report

The Committee has before it the fifth periodic report of Syria (CRC/C/SYR/5).

Presentation of the Report

HUSSAM EDIN AALA, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, at the outset expressed hope that this would be an objective and transparent dialogue, which together with the report and replies to the list of issues would show achievements accomplished and challenges faced and would provide the Committee with an understanding of the implementation of the Convention in Syria.  The reporting period covered an exceptional period in Syria during which it had suffered from a multifaceted war, launched by countries which used terrorism to implement aggressive plans and sponsored terrorists to destroy the values of the Syrian society and disturb decades of development achievements.  The Syrian State had shouldered its duty and responsibility to fight terrorists who had come from over 100 countries in order to protect its people.  The practices and crimes of armed terrorist groups had caused unprecedented human suffering and had prompted people to run from the areas under their control because of killings, murders, kidnapping, sexual slavery, and plundering national riches and public and private properties. 

Children were the main victims of the war and had faced unprecedented dangers, and extremist and perverse beliefs alien to the Syrian society.  The war on Syria did not only include the financing and military support of terrorist groups, but also an economic siege imposed on the Syrian people and campaigns of misinformation that targeted the Syrian State.  Some media had used children to produce and disseminate fabricated stories to defame the Syrian State, the Permanent Representative said, giving an example of the little boy Omran Daqneesh, whose fabricated photographs had been misused by the terrorist organization White Helmets in Aleppo.  After the liberation of Aleppo, this boy and his father had uncovered the truth about the fabricated photographs.  Syria had taken all necessary measures to protect its citizens and defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It was open to any true effort towards a political solution where Syrians would decide on their future without any foreign interference.  Syria was determined to continue to force all terrorists from the country and was committed to ensuring the return of all displaced Syrians to the country.

Mr. Aala reiterated that the preparation of the report, undertaken with the cooperation of civil society organizations, had allowed Syria to better understand the challenges, and recalled that the 2005 national plan of action for the protection of the child in Syria was essential for the national work in this domain.  Numerous mechanisms and institutions had been created during the reporting period, such as the Unit for Family Protection set up in 2017.  The report also provided an overview of the work of civil society organizations and noted that the number of licensed organizations was on the increase, and touched on the legislation adopted that aimed at implementing the national vision and the provisions of the Convention concerning freedom of belief and religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, among others.  The law on juveniles aimed at correcting the behaviour of children and protecting their best interests, while steps had been taken to promote the care for children with disabilities and their families. 

The sad circumstances that Syria had undergone had disproportionately burdened the national health sector, the Permanent Representative said, after hospitals had been targeted by armed terrorist groups and had been used by terrorists to launch aggressions.  The Government was committed to continue to provide the best quality health services for children within the available resources.  The strategy to address polio which had emerged in 2018 had been put in place.  The report spoke of the Government’s serious efforts to continue the educational process and address disruptions caused by terrorist groups.  The registration of civil status events and obtaining documents had become a real concern to a large number of citizens because a lot of civil status secretariats had been put out of service due to arson by terrorist groups.  The civil status law had been amended to facilitate the registration for Syrians inside the country and abroad.  The report also described efforts to trace children and reunite families, and the challenges related to implementing the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. 

Some countries continued their aggressive policies and occupied parts of Syrian territory, subverting the restoration of security and stability.  The Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan continued to prevent Syria from meetings its commitment to the children there, including depriving them of their nationality, language, culture, health and education services, and putting their lives in danger, particularly by laying mines throughout the Golan.  Mr. Aala decried unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria by some countries, which had had a detrimental impact on Syrians, children in particular, especially affecting daily services, including education and health; the continued politicization of the humanitarian situation in Syria which rejected terrorism as the cause of suffering in the country; and the lack of humanitarian funding and support for the rehabilitation and return of displaced persons to Syria.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Coordinator of the Committee’s Task Force on Syria, welcomed the submission of the report and the replies to the list of issues, and said that the situation in Syria had significantly changed since the last review in 2012, noting that the armed conflict had started in Syria in 2011.  Mr. Mezmur stressed that the dialogue would be heavily centred on the obligations of the State party to the Convention, namely the Government of Syria.

Turning to the issue of non-discrimination against children in legislation, the Coordinator asked about steps taken to address the gaps in the legal framework, particularly concerning inheritance, nationality, and parental recognition.  According to the report, the Child Rights Bill was almost finalized – to which extent did it incorporate the principle of the best interest of the child and how was the best interest of the child given a priority and integrated in military and security operations?

Thousands of Syrian children had been killed and maimed, the Coordinator said, noting that more than half of the children identified by the United Nations were victims of aerial attacks, largely a responsibility of the Government forces.  What had the Government done to ensure the right to life of children?  There were verified reports of the turning off of water and electricity supplies to several besieged towns by the Government, and of the systematic denial of aid, particularly in hard-to-reach areas, with a devastating impact on civilians and children in particular – could the delegation comment on those verified reports and explain how they related to its obligations under the Convention?

Questions by Committee Experts

Another Expert asked whether any steps had been taken to withdraw the reservation to the Convention concerning the right to belief and opinion, and whether the reservation applied to all children in Syria or only Muslims.  During the reporting period, Syria had adopted a number of new laws and revised numerous others – what efforts had been made to ensure that new legislation was aligned with the Convention?  The Expert also inquired about the timeline for the adoption of the Child Rights Bill that had been in the pipeline since 2006; the mandate of the newly established commission for the coordination of the implementation of the Convention, and its relationship with the national committee on the rights of the child; and whether a comprehensive plan of action for the rights of the child was in place. 

Turning to the definition of the child, the Expert said that the civil status law set the age of marriage at 18 for boys and 17 for girls – what was being done to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys, and to address the increasing phenomenon of child marriage?  Did Syria intend to abolish the privilege of Sharia judges to grant a father the right to marry off daughters at 13 and boys at 15 years of age?

Other Experts recognized the impact of the conflict on financial resources and asked about concrete steps taken to protect budgetary allocations for children, particularly health and education, and also to protect those resources from corruption which seemed to be a significant problem in the country.

One of the major protection concerns for children in Syria was the civil registration and the right to acquire nationality.  This was a long-standing issue which had been aggravated by the armed conflict and displacement, with some groups of children continuing to be at high risk of not being registered and documented at birth, for example children born to non-married parents or in mixed religion marriages, and children born out of situations of sexual violence or in contested or isolated areas.  The lack of registration equated to a lack of legal status of the child and impeded access to all services – health, education and humanitarian assistance.  The lack of identity documentation was particularly critical in the areas out of the control of the Government, where 25 per cent of adolescents did not have identity cards and a quarter of new-borns had not been registered since the beginning of the crisis. 

The Committee also raised concern about the denial of the right of the child to freedom of religion and the difficulty in accessing proper information of their choice, in particular access to the Internet and social media.

The Committee was deeply concerned about widespread and consistent information of torture and inhuman treatment of children, including the mutilation of children detained by the Government and non-State agents, sexual violence against detained children, particularly by public agents, and the death of children in detention and during demonstrations and protests.  The Committee was well aware that Syria had denied those allegations in its replies to the list of issues, however, videos and testimonies abounded. 

The Committee lamented the adoption of the legislative decree of 2008 which instituted judicial immunity on members of security organs for human rights violations committed in the course of duty.  What measures had been adopted to render the prohibition of torture, inhuman treatment, corporal punishment, sexual violence and domestic violence effective and to prosecute perpetrators?  Girls experienced more violence, including sexual abuse and violence, perpetuated by all parties to the conflict, while an upsurge of child marriage had been observed as a result of the crisis, an Expert remarked, asking the delegation to outline concrete steps taken to address those issues.

Replies by the Delegation

In response to questions raised, the delegation noted that some of those questions were accusatory and referred to sources of information that were not validated nor substantiated, and underlined the difference between the United Nations and the Government of Syria when it came to numbers, data and information.

The Penal Code protected all children who were victims of crimes and many articles had been recently amended to strengthen the protection of children and introduce stronger sentences for crimes against children, a delegate said.  The 2013 law n°11 had amended the Penal Code and criminalized the recruitment of children, prescribing harsh sentences.  There was no discrimination against any group of children in the Penal Code.  The People’s Assembly, the legislative body of Syria, ratified international conventions.  Corporal punishment of children in schools was completely prohibited and carried heavy sentences as prescribed by the Penal Code.

Different definitions of a child were being used in different laws - minor or juvenile, but both referred to a child as any person under the age of 18.  The terminology would be unified by the upcoming Child Rights Bill, which had been in the process of drafting for a long time.  It was entirely based on the Convention and its principles, and some articles were almost all copied from the Convention.  The bill aimed to enhance the protection of the child provided for in many different laws; it set out basic general principles mentioned in the Convention, including a definition of a child as any person under the age of 18.  The best interest of the child had to be a priority in all procedures and decisions affecting the child; the right to the life, survival and development of a child was the first right; discrimination against any child was prohibited; and the bill reaffirmed the rights of the child to nationality, education, culture, access to information, and play and leisure. 

The bill also guaranteed alternative care for children, which was particularly relevant given the high number of unaccompanied minors due to the crisis.  Together with the amendments to the Penal Code, the bill reinforced the prohibition of the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and set out the obligation of the State to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of children, who were seen as victims.  It would set up a national commission for the rights of children mandated with designing and implementing policy and legislation for children.  The bill had been submitted to the National Assembly for imminent adoption.

The national committee for international humanitarian law had been created in 2015 and was composed of representatives of relevant Government ministries.  It coordinated the dissemination of international humanitarian law and had initiated a review of Syrian legislation with the view to its harmonization with the four Geneva Conventions and their Optional Protocols.

One of the major challenges in Syria was civil status and birth registration, due to the fact that many civil status offices had been out of order for some time now.  However, all the civil status data and records had been preserved as they had been stored in a central database and automatized.  Civil status offices had been re-established in provinces where there was safety and security, such as Aleppo, Homs, and Deir ez-Zor.  Amendments to the civil status law made it possible for Syrians to register births anywhere in the country, and no longer only in their own province, as had been the case before.

As for the country’s policy framework on childhood, a good part of the national early childhood strategy 2014-2020 had already been implemented, with the participation of 12 line ministries and seven or eight civil society organizations, a delegate explained.  The national plan to address the worst forms of child labour had been developed, as was the index of follow up and assessment which would be used to monitor the implementation and accelerate the action if needed.  Three additional strategies had been finalized in 2018.  The budget line for children could not be meticulously estimated, said the delegate, because in addition to child-specific budget lines, action for children was included in other budget lines as well. 

The Protection Unit of the Syrian Commission of Family Affairs and Population was managed by a non-governmental organization; it coordinated with international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund.  Services, such as shelter, rehabilitation, and legal or education support, were provided free of charge to children and women victims of violence.

The age of recruitment into the army was 18 years.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the continuation of the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts turned to the family environment, raising concern about gender inequality within the family and asking about legal means to establish fatherhood of children born to non-married mothers.  Given the plurality of legal systems in the country, how were the rights of children fully protected?  Could a recognized non-married parent, usually the father, be considered as a legal parent and have the right and duty to fully care for the child? 

The delegation was asked to define the efforts to prevent the separation of children from their families, particularly children with disabilities, and to inform on the development of a post-conflict alternative care system, including the support to foster and kafala families.  The Committee was very worried about children in street situations, and urged the Government to decriminalize begging and adopt a child-rights based approach to such children.

The conflict had had a particularly devastating impact on the health system and the quality of health services, the Experts recognized, and asked about concrete steps envisaged to rehabilitate those damaged health structures and replace health personnel who had left the country.  What measures were in place to prevent attacks on medical personnel and facilities in the context of the conflict, and to identify and prosecute those responsible for this violation of national and international humanitarian law?  The conflict had also caused environmental degradation and damage which had had a negative impact on the health of children – what was being done to minimize the damage?

A large number of children lived in poverty, partly due to the conflict – what measures, including those within the social protection system, were in place to ensure that children enjoyed an adequate standard of living without discrimination?

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Coordinator of the Committee’s Task Force on Syria, recognized that one important consequence of the conflict was its impact on the mental health of children and asked about mental health services available in the country.  Were there sexual and reproductive services available to adolescents?

With regard to children in armed conflict, the Coordinator stressed that a significant number of children had been recruited in the armed forces to be used in combat and for other functions throughout the country.  There had been reports of the recruitment of children under the age of 15, which constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute.  While it was true that a significant number of recruitments could be attributed to non-State actors, there were verified reports of the association of at least 29 children with Government forces.  What was being done to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups and prosecute those responsible? 

What was being done to establish accountability for thousands of children killed and maimed, more than half in indiscriminate air attacks, often by the Government itself, and some due to the use of toxic substances?  What efforts were being deployed to secure the release of children held by various armed groups and to ensure that the best interest of the child was integrated in all peace negotiations and agreements?  What was being done to protect children from being killed or hurt by unexploded ordinances?

Another Expert raised serious concern about the use of schools for military purposes, attacks on schools in which many children had been killed or wounded by all parties to the conflict, and the fact that primarily due to displacement 1.7 million children were out of school and an additional 1.35 million children were at risk of leaving school.  What specific steps were being taken to guarantee access to education to all children, including displaced children, and to prevent, investigate and sanction attacks on schools and compensate victims?

Since December 2018, violence in Ruqban and Deir ez-Zor had caused the displacement of tens of thousands, and lacking shelter, a number of young children had lost their lives to cold and freezing temperatures.  This man-made disaster must stop for “history will judge us for these completely avoidable deaths”, the Committee Expert stressed.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding, a delegate noted that some of the questions were based on partial reports against the Government of Syria.  The report should be dealt with in an accurate way and questions should not be approached as undeniable facts that could not be questioned.  Also, turning a blind eye to international intervention and support for terrorism in Syria would not lead to an interactive dialogue. 

With regard to the air attacks on a school in Idlib in which children had been killed, a delegate stressed that those allegations ignored the use of certain service facilities as military facilities by terrorist groups.  The allegation made the delegation question the accuracy of the information, its source, and how it was corroborated.  A constructive dialogue should not be unilateral but based on corroborated facts.  It should be based on a recognition of the situation on the ground, and not on narratives and information not fully corroborated.  The Committee should look at over 50 letters Syria had sent to the United Nations Security Council concerning the humanitarian situation in the country, as well as its replies to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict concerning allegations featured in her report.

With regard to children’s right to life in the context of fighting terrorism, the delegate stressed that civilian protection was the main concern and Syrian armed forces had not used any prohibited weapons in fighting terrorism in urban areas, and were fully committed to the principles of international humanitarian law.  This meant that entire operations had been cancelled because the army did not want to attack schools and other civilian infrastructure used by terrorists for military purposes.  The Committee in their questions ignored the daily attacks by American forces and by the Turkish army and armed groups close to them, in which many children had been killed, the delegate stressed, and urged the Committee to examine other sources of information, for example an article in the Independent concerning propaganda in the context of the liberation of Aleppo.

Turning to the delivery of humanitarian aid, Syria had adopted a number of steps to provide all those in need with humanitarian assistance without discrimination, to ensure the safety of humanitarian staff, and to prevent that humanitarian aid ended up in the hands of terrorists.  Responding to questions raised on the siege of several towns and the denial of humanitarian aid to the population within, the delegation said that events had shown that terrorist groups had besieged towns and used civilians as human shields, starving and killing them, including in Aleppo and eastern Ghouta.  The situation in the Ruqban refugee camp was another example of human suffering caused by American-supported terrorists, who did not allow humanitarian assistance to reach the population in need.  Syria had allowed a United Nations team to enter the camp, and had heard first-hand testimonies of starvation and deprivation.  Armed groups methodically cut water supplies to towns and settlements, including in Damascus where the water supply had been reduced by 80 per cent, or in Aleppo during the 2014 to 2016 period.

Syria rejected allegations of the recruitment of children in the armed forces and requested the Committee to provide detailed information on cases they had referred to in their questions.  The minimum age of recruitment in Syrian armed forces was set at 18 years.

As for the reservation that Syria had entered to the Convention concerning the right to freedom of religion or belief, another delegate stressed the importance that Syria placed on preserving families and family interests, which was in the best interest of the child.  Equally, Syria respected the right of parents to raise children religiously and in accordance with their beliefs.  There was no discrimination in the application of this reservation, as the Constitution reaffirmed the protection of cultural diversity that was seen as a national asset.

Family reunification centres in normal circumstances were run by civil society organizations, but there was another model for family reunification and tracking due to the current circumstances in the country.  For example, in areas liberated from armed terrorist groups and from which there was civilian displacement, the Government was working with the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Syrian Red Crescent and other partners to first and foremost prevent separation, and then to identify the separated child, track the family, and reunite the child with the family.

There was a special law on the right to peaceful demonstration and assembly of 2011, while the Constitution stipulated the right to freedom of opinion and expression to all citizens.  The law on associations guaranteed the right of children to form associations for children, according to their age.  The Child Rights Bill guaranteed the child’s right to access information, express opinion, and join associations in accordance with the child’s age and maturity, and in line with applicable laws.

According to the Personal Status Act, the birth registration of all children was mandatory, and this applied also to children born out of wedlock and children born as a result of illegitimate relations.  If the father of the out-of-wedlock child requested the birth registration, the child would receive his name, otherwise, the child would carry the mother’s name.  The nationality law should be soon revised, and there were no stateless persons in the country.

The law had Sharia as its source, and it set the age of marriage for girls at 17 and for boys at 18; the law also allowed judicial authorities to register a marriage of younger children, for example if there was a pregnancy, the marriage would be registered to protect the interest of the unborn child.  The Personal Status Act was soon to be amended, which would settle the question of marriage registration.

Violence against children in schools was prohibited and offending teachers would be dismissed and could face disciplinary procedures and criminal prosecution.  Corporal punishment at home was clearly prohibited by the law, but there was a need to raise awareness on the matter.  Great strides had been made in fighting violence against women, and the society completely rejected sexual violence, which carried harsh sentences.   Perpetrators of rape for example could be sentenced to life in prison, or even capital punishment if the victim was under the age of 15.

Mothers had automatic custody of children, girls until the age of 15 and boys until the age of 13.  Judges had the right to study each case to determine the eligibility of the legal guardian, which meant that custody could be transferred to another person, in the best interest of the child.  Begging was criminalized and carried a simple sanction; children were covered by the juvenile law, which prescribed no sanction for children who were seen as victims and the prescribed course of action was the child’s rehabilitation and social reintegration.

The national strategy on alternative care guaranteed care for each child, and Governmental and non-governmental efforts had been joined to provide the best possible alternative care.  The law on foster care was under development.

In follow-up questions, Committee Experts raised serious concern about the treatment of juveniles in conflict with the law during the ongoing conflict, reports of children being detained often without a formal charges and with adults, and the treatment of children accused of being associated with armed groups.
The delegation was asked about the budget put aside for the reconstruction of health facilities, and the strategy in place to deal with environmental pollution and degradation caused by the conflict.

Responding, the delegation said that Syria was keen to preserve its health facilities and was spending millions of dollars to rehabilitate them.  There were non-official health structures put in place by armed groups, and their location was not known to the Syrian army.  A number of health facilities had been attacked and often completely destroyed by terrorist groups, which the Government, with the cooperation of the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, was rehabilitating.

The Juvenile Act distinguished three categories of juveniles: those under the age of 10 did not have any criminal responsibility and no punitive or rehabilitative measure could be imposed on them; the 10 to 15 years of age group were not criminally responsible but could receive a rehabilitative or corrective measure as decided by a judge; and those aged 15 to 18 were criminally responsible and could be sentenced, but would receive a lighter sentence.  All juveniles were processed under the juvenile justice rules and by a specialized judge, and they had the support of a psychologist.  Juveniles were held separately from adults in juvenile centres, but because of the crisis, some of those were no longer controlled by the Government, so juveniles had been placed elsewhere but still separately from adults.  There were organizations that visited places of detention, the International Committee of the Red Cross alone had conducted over 60 visits over the last three years.

The 2010 law to combat trafficking in persons criminalized trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.  It was implemented by a specialized national committee, and was composed of representatives of seven relevant ministries.  The law had led to the establishment of a special anti-trafficking unit at the Ministry of Interior, and it considered the child as a victim and prescribed a range of rehabilitation and support measures.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Coordinator of the Committee’s Task Force on Syria, in follow-up questions, remarked that the replies by the delegation heavily indicated that violations of children’s rights were committed by armed terrorist groups and other States, but not by the Government of Syria.  Had the Government identified any violation of the provision of the Convention by its forces or agents?

The delegation reiterated in response that the war against Syria was also one of misinformation campaigns and propaganda against its Government and stressed that statements attributing the responsibility for attacks on Syrian people to the Government of Syria were politically motivated and not based on facts on the ground.

There was a system in place for monitoring and follow up of education in those governorates which were not under the control of the Government, another delegate said, adding that in some areas, families refused to send their children to newly set-up schools which taught Kurdish or other non-recognized curricula.  Instead, they set up private schools which taught the Syrian curricula.  In recently restored areas, the Government, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund, had developed a so-called B system of education in which two grades were brought together into one in order to make up for the lost time.  Also, intensive courses had been created for students who had had to stop their education, and there was the Internet and television-based education from first to eighth grade. 

It was estimated that over 1.1 million children were out of school, because they were either in refugee camps abroad or in besieged areas of the country.  In areas outside the Government’s control, there were primary schools created by the terrorist groups, while secondary schools continued running using the Syrian curricula.

One of the most important drivers of early marriage during the conflict was the fear of families that terrorist groups would attack or harass their girls.  It was estimated that in Syria, seven to 10 per cent of girls had been married off early during the crisis.  This was a social, and not a legal issue, the delegation stressed. 

The Government, in partnership with civil society organizations, had put in place the post-war Syria strategy to 2020; it was earmarking resources for reconstruction and 12 specialized teams for each of the key sectors were already in place.  Another strategy for the 2020 to 2030 period would be adopted at a later stage.   

Concluding Remarks

AMAL ALDOSERI, Member of the Committee’s Task Force on Syria, concluded by recognizing the challenging situation in Syria caused by the crisis and the resulting difficulties in delivering on its international commitments.  However, Ms. Aldoseri stressed, this situation could not waive Syria’s responsibilities towards its children.

HUSSAM EDIN AALA, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, said that the delegation had attempted to showcase the reality on the ground and challenges that the Government was facing, some of which were outside of its control due to foreign interference in its internal affairs.  Syria was in the final phases of the war.  It was intent on liberating all of its territory from terrorists and invaders, and was aware that the next period would pose a new set of challenges.  Syria relied on the Committee’s support in lifting unilateral coercive measures which limited the ability of the Government to discharge some of its responsibilities towards its citizens.

RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and wished that Syrian children would soon live in peace and return to normal life.

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