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Analysis: Europe stands by the Syrian people

Nov. 8, 2012 9:14 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 12, 2012 7:13 P.M.)
By: Kristalina Georgieva
More than 1.5 million Syrians were unable to spend this year's Eid al-Adha in their homes. They had to flee their towns and villages because of the brutal conflict in their country. While 1.2 million are displaced inside Syria, more than 380,000 others had to cross the borders to find security and protection.

One of them is 6-year-old Widad. She now lives in a sand-covered tent at the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan next to the border with Syria. A few weeks ago, members of my team, based in Amman, went to visit the camp. Back then, there were around 10,000 refugees.

Now Widad is one of 37,000 Syrians who have found temporary shelter at that place thanks to help from Jordan's government and people and the international community. Widad and her family need every help we can give.

The European Union has mobilized a substantial humanitarian operation, worth 240 million euros, to help the millions of Syrians affected by the conflict. We reach out to civilians like Widad who need protection, medical care, food and a place to stay while the war lasts. Our partners in this operation are the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, the UN and NGOs.

As the largest international contributor to the relief effort inside Syria and across its borders, Europe also forges stronger mobilization and coordination among donors and aid agencies. The EU is the co-facilitator of the Syria Humanitarian Forum and has helped to bring all parties concerned to work together.

Many countries, organizations and people of all denominations near and far, including occupied Palestinian territory, are all helping generously. This solidarity reminds us that humanitarian aid is a universal, not a western concept. Centuries before humanitarianism took shape in Europe, the Islamic principle of voluntary giving and help to the needy – sadaqah – was already enshrined in the Holy Koran.

Yet the international community struggles to come up with a unified political position on how to respond to the Syrian conflict. But disagreement on a political solution does not mean we have to remain passive. All of us can agree that the Syrian people need help, and all of us are helping: humanity must defeat the cold rationale of politics and conflict. Because the deeper the wounds, the harder it will be for Syrians and for the region to rise from the conflict and embrace peace.

To defend our shared humanity, even in complex conflicts like this one, the global community has rules and principles, known as international humanitarian law.

In Syria, its principles are being violated every day now by killing and torturing civilians, shooting at ambulances and going after humanitarian workers. This goes against our legal norms, but also against our moral codes and against the basic principles of our religions. And when so many laws are violated, the consequences are serious.

This is why I call on all sides of this war to protect lives instead of taking them. To spare neighborhoods instead of shelling them. To let humanitarian workers fulfil their mission. For the sake of children like Widad and for the sake of all Syrians who just want to go home, heal and rebuild their lives.

As humanitarians we do what we can, not to serve governments or play politics, but to help people in need – like the Saharawis in Algeria, the Palestinians in the occupied territory, the Yemenis, the Iraqis – and now the Syrians. We will continue to help – this is our mission and moral imperative. But we must keep in mind that humanitarian aid is just a wound dressing – it can save lives, yes, but it cannot heal the wounds.

To bring about reconciliation, freedom and peace, the solution must come from those who take political decisions.

Kristalina Georgieva is the EU commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.
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