Convoys, Cross-border, Covert Ops: Responding to state-led arbitrary aid denial in civil wars. Lessons from Syria, Myanmar, and Ethiopia.

Beals, E.
Publication language
Date published
01 Jun 2023
Research, reports and studies
Conflict, violence & peace, Humanitarian Access
Syria, Ethiopia, Myanmar

Syria's more-than twelve-year conflict has been plagued by aid access issues from the very beginning. These once again came into sharp focus in the week after February's devastating earthquake, in a turn of events recently mirrored in Myanmar's Rahkine province in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha. Despite hard-won innovations and solutions in Syria, the UNSC resolution allowing cross-border aid must be renewed every 6-12 months at an increasingly-high cost, while cross-cutting solutions to the same problems still elude the international community in Myanmar and Ethiopia.

In intra-state conflicts (civil wars) where states block aid as a military or political tactic, the aid system and international diplomacy are routinely failing to reach those most in need of assistance.

How is so little being learned? Why are there so few solutions to this recurring problem? This project examined the last twelve years of the aid response in Syria in detail, as well as the current situations in Myanmar and Tigray, to identify lessons learned for those working in intra-state conflicts where the state is responsible for arbitrary denial.

It draws on the author's decade-plus of experience working on Syria, as well as several months of desk research on the responses in Syria, Myanmar, and Ethiopia, reviewing public reports as well as private operational documents. The study also incorporates the findings from in-depth interviews with 40 key informants from donor governments, the UN, INGOs, civil society organizations (CSOs), think tanks and analysis organizations that worked across the three responses or indirectly relevant thematic areas, in addition to material collected in previous interviews.

This report highlights some of the major lessons identified in Syria and the other two contexts. It focuses on identifying immediately actionable solutions to the cross-cutting issues identified and charting a way forward in both the political sphere and humanitarian operations.