The United Nations has employed many friends, relatives, and political associates of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to work on relief operations in Syria, a move that has resulted in more aid being delivered to government-held territories than areas controlled by the opposition, reveal leaked UN documents obtained by The Guardian.
In recent months, some aid groups have accused the UN of being “in hock to the Assad regime, which it denies,” reports The Guardian.
Despite the denials, 73 aid groups have suspended their cooperation with the UN’s information sharing system in Syria until there is a transparent probe into their concerns that the Assad regime has gained “significant and substantial” influence over the relief effort, it adds.
“The UN says it has been delivering aid to 13.5 million Syrians in difficult and dangerous circumstances, but accepts that it is constrained by the Syrian government, which only allows the organisation to work with certain Damascus-approved partners,” notes The Guardian.
The leaked documents show that nearly two-thirds of the emergency health supplies provided for the Syrian population by World Health Organization (WHO), a UN agency, have gone to Assad-allied territory.
“Only 13% of WHO supplies have reached Syria’s ‘besieged’ areas, most of which are controlled by forces opposed to the regime,” points out the Guardian.
The UN blames the rebels for the limited reach of its aid.
“Stephen O’Brien, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said rebel groups had also prevented medical evacuations from reaching besieged eastern Aleppo during the recent pause in fighting,” points out The Guardian.
At the very core of the Assad regime is “a movement” that combines “nepotism, socialism, corruption, brutality and courage in about equal measure” to maintain an iron grip on Syria, noted the Independent in 2015, about four years into the ongoing Syrian civil war.
The Assad movement’s tentacles appear to have reached well beyond the Syrian government and into the UN relief operations in Syria.
According to The Guardian, the UN maintains that hiring people close to the Assad regime does not pose a threat to the organization’s work, noting that the staff needed to reflect “the fabric of Syrian society,” notes the newspaper.
“In responses, the UN insisted that it remained impartial and defended the need to work with all parties in the conflict,” it adds.
“Family connections are not taken into consideration nor investigated” when hiring UN staff, and the UN did not question prospective workers about their political affiliations, a spokesman for the multinational organization told The Guardian.
Nevertheless, the Syria Campaign, an independent advocacy group, blasted the UN for hiring people close to the Syrian dictator.
It declared that it is “utterly unconscionable that [a UN] agency dedicated to supporting refugees would employ close relatives of Assad’s inner circle,” notes The Guardian.
The leaked documents revealed that various UN agencies, including the refugee agency UNHCR and the WHO, have hired relatives of high-ranking ministers within the Assad regime
Every UN agency had at least “one person who is a direct relative of a Syrian official,” The Guardian learned from one former UN manager, on condition of anonymity.
The UN requested that The Guardian refrain from identifying any individuals on the staff lists to protect their safety.