UN expert cancels visit to Syria due to lack of full cooperation
11 July 2023
GENEVA (11 July 2023) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, was compelled to cancel his visit to the Syrian Arab Republic set to begin on 9 July, citing a lack of full cooperation by the Government.
The Special Rapporteur received an invitation to visit from the Syrian government. The dates were originally fixed for April 2023 and postponed to 9-20 July to allow for more time to reach a mutually agreed agenda.
“Despite my continued efforts, I regret that the authorities have failed to provide information and make steps necessary to allow the visit to take place,” Arrojo- Agudo said. “This showed a lack of good will to facilitate this visit, which should have started on Sunday. I am disappointed but compelled to cancel the visit,” he said.
Over 12 years of conflict and protracted crisis have inflicted immense suffering on Syria’s civilian population in all parts of the country. It is well documented that access to safe drinking water and sanitation systems are severely limited, with tremendous consequences on the enjoyment of other fundamental human rights such as the rights to health and to life.
Arrojo-Agudo’s visit would have provided the first opportunity for an independent UN expert to examine first-hand the conditions of water and sanitation facilities in various locations and analyse challenges and positive practices on access to these rights, especially in the aftermath of the devastating impacts of the recent earthquake in Syria.
“My team ensured that preparations for this visit were guided fully by the terms of referenceand the code of conduct of Special Procedures Mandate-Holders of the Human Rights Council,” the expert said. “The preparations were made in full consideration of the sensitivities and realities on the ground, and in line with current practice for UN field missions in the country,” he said.
Under these terms of reference, when governments invite UN Special Rapporteurs to visit, they are required to guarantee and facilitate their freedom to choose whom to meet and where to travel.
Calling the cancellation of his visit a “drastic measure”, Arrojo-Agudo said: “This is not a decision I have taken lightly.”
The expert expressed gratitude to those who had agreed to meet him in Syria and worked relentlessly to make his visit a productive one.
The Special Rapporteur said he was committed to work with all relevant stakeholders in Syria and support their work to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation for millions of people in the country.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work voluntarily; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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