The Guardian investigation reveals that companies under EU and U.S. sanctions, Assad associates, regime departments and charities, including some set up by the president’s wife and his closest associate, have been paid large sums as part of the UN relief mission — and that these amounts are used to support a regime which has killed thousands of its own citizens.
The Guardian states that the UN may be compromising its principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality with these procurements.
After extensive research and detailed examinations of documents as well as feedback from UN insiders and aid workers, dozens of UN’s deals raised suspicion, says the article.
UN’s contracts awarded to the regime –directly or indirectly were- exposed for the first time by the analysis.
$13 million and $4 million respectively were paid to the regime for these purposes.
The World Health Organization also provided $5 million in support to Syria’s national blood bank which is controlled by Assad’s defense department.
UNICEF also paid $267,933 to the Al-Bustan Association, owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin and friend of Assad as well as being Syria’s wealthiest man. This charity has been affiliated to several pro-regime militia groups.
The analysis also showed that the UN had paid amounts ranging between $54 million and $30,000 to 258 Syrian companies.
Figures also show that $900 million of the total $1.1 billion in the UN relief efforts in 2015 was spent on “aid funneled through Damascus.”
“When faced with having to decide whether to procure goods or services from businesses that may be affiliated with the government or let civilians go without life-saving assistance, the choice is clear: our duty is to the civilians in need.”
Based upon documents seen by the Guardian, the investigation states that the UN has been caving in to Assad’s requests in Syria, especially on which areas aid can be delivered to as well as what sort of aid.
The regime has been known to impose restrictions on what can be distributed and by whom.
Ordering the UN to stay loyal to a list of “approved” international and Syrian organizations it can work with for aid missions, Damascus has many times removed items such as incubators, and refused to let convoys into certain areas.
The UN can only work with a short list of partners, and only with the blessing of Assad.
The investigation also voices concern that aid is being prioritized in regime-held areas.
Dr Reinoud Leenders, a war studies expert at King’s College in London, expressed his concern, saying that “the UN needed to rethink its strategy in Syria”. He also said that the UN needed to keep its distance to Assad and his associates, who caused the brutality and repression, which brought about the need for humanitarian aid in the first place.