Over five years of armed conflict in Syria has resulted in the loss of more than 400,000 Syrian lives, 6.3 million internally displaced persons, and 4.8 million seeking refuge in other countries. The Syrian crisis descended into civil war in 2011 when uprisings against President Assad’s repressive regime became violent. War crimes have been reportedly committed by all parties including murder, torture and rape. The situation is becoming increasing dangerous for civilians with 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. While the UK government lacks leverage over most actors in the conflict, there are measures it can take to help. These include supporting the provision of urgent civilian protection, creating humanitarian access for those trapped inside the country, and encourage mediation between the warring sects.
South Sudan has faced a number of obstacles since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011. Unfortunately, instead of addressing these issues, the government has focused on maintaining profit and power for elites, and its bloated and ineffective military has remained factionalized. In December 2013, President Salva Kiir accused Vice President Riek Machar of plotting a coup, and Machar formed his own army to oppose Kiir’s rule. The conflict has raged on, leaving peace agreements ignored, and with leaders largely removed from the suffering caused to civilians. The UK government should ensure an inclusive peace process with civil society representation, coordinate an arms embargo and sanctions on leaders fueling the conflict, and help push South Sudan towards the long process of building a capable and responsive state that achieves the desires of its people.
Burma’s transition to democracy remains fraught with problems. The Rohingya are denied citizenship and lack many basic rights. They remain extremely vulnerable to the hostile attitudes many Burmese hold. The Burmese military continues to fight multiple ethnic rebellions, while the huge presence the military holds over the government stalls many democratic efforts for change. The UK should use its influence to pressure the Burmese government to improve its treatment of the Rohingya, allow for democratic reforms, and meaningfully engage in peace negotiations with ethnic rebels.
The Yemeni Civil War began almost 2 years ago, with President Hadi and former President Saleh (spearheading the Houthi rebels) both fighting for control. The conflict quickly degenerated into a “humanitarian catastrophe” and a UN level three emergency. An estimated 10,000 people have died in the Yemeni Civil War and, out of a population of a population of 27.4 million people, 80% of people are reported to be in need of humanitarian assistance. On one hand the UK Government is providing essential humanitarian aid, but on the other, they are simultaneously allowing the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. With mounting evidence for the weapons being used in violation of international humanitarian law, it is necessary that the UK suspends its arms exports to Saudi Arabia.