Report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights on his mission to the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/39/54/Add.2) (Advance Edited Version)


Human Rights Council
Thirty-sixth session
10-28 September 2018
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Note by the Secretary-General

The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council resolutions 27/21 and 36/10.

During his visit to the Syrian Arab Republic the Special Rapporteur met with a wide range of government officials, permanent representatives, business associations, representatives of United Nations agencies and civil society.

The focus of his visit was to examine the impact of unilateral coercive measures. In the report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the impact of these measures on the enjoyment of human rights of Syrians, and identifies the impediments identified by Syrian-based civil society and humanitarian actors operating in Syria. It concludes with recommendations on measures for making the existing humanitarian exceptions available under unilateral coercive measures more workable.

**I. Introduction **

  1. The Special Rapporteur conducted an official visit to the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) in Damascus from 13 to 17 May 2018. He held meetings with Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior officials of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Economy and Foreign Trade, Local Administration and Environment, Social Affairs and Labour, Transport, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Electricity and Health. He also met with the leadership of the Planning and International Cooperation Commission, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Chamber of Commerce, and with the Governor of the Central Bank. He also engaged with civil society, humanitarian organizations and by independent experts. Finally, the Special Rapporteur met with diplomatic missions in Damascus and Beirut. He is also grateful to the briefings provided by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut prior to his visit.

  2. The Special Rapporteur expresses his gratitude to the Syrian Government for the invitation to visit the country and for the openness and readiness with which it facilitated the meetings for his mission. He also thanks the office of the Resident Coordinator, the members of the UN country team and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their invaluable support.

  3. The present report discusses the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights in Syria, and considers the difficulties in making use of humanitarian exemptions under these measures. The report concludes with recommendations on how to minimize the impact of unilateral coercive measures on Syrians, and how existing exemptions could be better implemented.

  4. The Special Rapporteur would like to clarify at the outset that, while his mandate refers to “unilateral coercive measures”, understood as transnational, non-forcible coercive measures, and sanctions normally refers to those enacted by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, he uses loosely and interchangeably the expressions “unilateral coercive measures”, “unilateral sanctions” and simply “sanctions” in the present report.

**II. Overview of humanitarian and human rights situation regarding sanctions **

  1. The humanitarian needs of the people of Syria continue to be immense. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has estimated that 6.1 million children and young adults require educational support, including 1.75 million children out of school, and that one third of all schools in Syria have been destroyed or damaged, with many more being used as temporary shelters.1 4.2 million require adequate shelter, with an estimated one third of all housing having been destroyed. Some 14.6 million people lack access to clean drinking water, including 7.6 million in acute need.

Medical conditions

  1. The World Health Organization reported that approximately 11.3 million Syrians lack access to adequate health care, and one in three children is missing out on life-saving vaccines, declining from 95% in 2006 to only 60% in 2016.2 The decline in vaccination rates in Syria have led to the reappearance of previously eradicated diseases, including poliomyelitis, typhoid, measles, and rubella.3 As vaccines require a cold-supply train, and due to a shortage of refrigerators, or power for refrigeration, insufficient vaccines are available. Unsanitary conditions and limited access to clear water and functional sewage systems contribute to the rise of disease.

Food insecurity

  1. An estimated 6.5 million Syrians are food insecure, with an additional 4 million at risk of becoming so, representing nearly half the population. 4.3 million women and children are estimated to require nutritional support. Local food production from 2006 to 2011 was relatively stable, and Syria was the only country in the Middle East region to be self-sufficient in food production. From 2006 to 2011, Syria had a thriving agricultural sector that contributed about 21% to the GDP, and employed 17% of the labour force.4 The food production market was controlled by the Syrian government, the prices of` food were affordable, and the daily caloric intake was on par with many Western countries.5 Food production declined since 2011, and today Syria relies on food imports. Additionally, oil and economic embargoes impair the ability of Syria to purchase food internationally and the financial embargo prevent the country from paying for whatever it can afford to import. Furthermore, the declining economy makes it more difficult to subsidize food.

Economic situation

  1. Prior to 2011, the Syrian economy was one of the best performing in the region, with a growth rate averaging 4.6% per annum from 2008 to 2010.6 Yet from 2011 to 2016, the rate became negative, falling by an average of 10.8% annually, with falls of over 22% in 2012 and 2013.7 The total GDP of Syria has reportedly fallen by between one half and two thirds since 2011. Foreign currency reserves have been depleted, and international financial and other assets remain frozen. In 2010, 45 Syrian Liras were exchanged for one dollar; by 2017 the rate fell to fell to 515 liras per dollar.8

  2. Economic deterioration has severely harmed employment numbers. The working age population has also decreased by 2 percent annually, corresponding to an estimated decrease of 264,000 individuals net per year in that period. Overall, the unemployment rate increased from 8.6 percent in 2010 to a disastrous 52.9 percent in 2015, a 44.3 percentage point change.9


  1. This is compounded by the declining purchasing power of Syrians, which has reduced access to food and other needed goods.10 Inflation in Syria from 2000 to 2009 was low and averaged 4.4%, but rose rapidly after 2011, with the consumer price index (CPI) increasing by approximately 291% between 2011 and 2018.11 Between 2008 and 2011, the food annual inflation rate in Syria averaged12%, but beginning in 2012 it increased dramatically, reaching an all-time high of 121% in 2013, and dropping to about 30% in 2018.12 Some food items increased eight-fold in price during that period. This rapid rise in costs is particularly hard on Syrians living on fixed incomes who are by far the most important segment of the income earning population.

Agricultural production

  1. International sanctions have led to a marked reduction in the availability of crop protection chemicals, fertilizers, seeds and other agricultural inputs. This together with sanctions on the energy and water sectors have contributed to reduced production of food and fodder.