Live Seminar 42: Humanitarian Corridors in Syria: A path to political intervention?

March 15, 2012 - 9:30am - 11:00am
Online, United States


To view the recording of the event: click here
The deteriorating political situation in Syria has had a dramatic affect on the safety and security of the civilian population. Amidst UN Security Council gridlock over taking action on Syria, the international community has begun seeking alternate routes to address the current humanitarian crisis. One set of options entails establishing a limited truce or a humanitarian corridor to provide much needed assistance to the population. Other options involve creating “safe areas” or “no-kill zones,” which would be more or less militarized. Additionally, the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic recently released a report concluding that Syrian authorities at the highest level, as well as opposition forces, have committed gross and systematic human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
This seminar explored the legal and policy challenges of protecting civilians in Syria, in particular, as they pertain to establishing humanitarian corridors in order to provide much needed assistance to vulnerable populations. A humanitarian corridor is seen by some as a necessity to provide immediate relief on neutral grounds and by others as the first step of a more ambitious international intervention that would address the causes of violence against civilians. While in theory these arguments may seem exclusive and polarized, in practice the UN mission has increasingly integrated their approach to seek and maintain access to vulnerable populations - as seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, and Darfur. The blurring of the line between humanitarian action and political intervention has become a particularly salient issue in the case of Syria, as illustrated by the duel mandate of UN Arab League Envoy, Kofi Annan. It is expected that the ability of the international community to mediate these contradictory interests between a neutral, consensual arrangements and multilateral political interventions for the protection of civilians will have a lasting impact on the core concepts of humanitarian action.
The live seminar addressed:
- What is the applicable legal framework to the situation in Syria? Does the Law of Armed Conflict apply? What are the implications of utilizing such a framework?
- What are the requirements to establish a neutral humanitarian corridor? How can such a corridor be maintained over time? 
- What does a "safe area" entail in terms of protection of civilians and how can it be enforced? 
- What are the core elements of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) that guide discussion within the Security Council? Has the threshold of R2P been crossed in the case of Syria?
- What are the potential policy implications of blurring the line between humanitarian action and political intervention?
Claude Bruderlein (HPCR Director) and Dustin A. Lewis (Program Associate) moderated the discussion. 
Dr. Ian Hurd, Northwestern University
Dr. Mukesh Kapila, Aegis Trust 
Jon Lee Anderson, "Letter from Syria: The Implosion," The New Yorker, February 27, 2012.
Claude Bruderlein, "Syria: Humanitarian corridors will depend on international committment to protect civilians," HPCR Blog, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University, February 24, 2012.
Ian Hurd, "Is Humanitarian Intervention Legal? The Rule of Law in an Incoherent World," Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 25, No. 3 (2011).
UN Security Council, Humanitarian Access in Syria, Press Statement, March 2, 2012.
Chibli Mallat et al., "A Strategy for Syria under International Law: How to end the Asad Dictatorship while restoring nonviolence to the Syrian revolution," Harvard International Law Journal Online, Vol. 53, pp. 144-154 (2012).
Adam Roberts, "Safety Zones," Crimes of War Project.

Photos from the Live Web Seminar 

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