Top Humanitarian Leaders Pen Open Letter to Geneva II Peace Talk Participants; Call for Urgent Action to Protect Syrian Children

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, January 22, 2014

New York, 22 January – As the Geneva II peace talks begin Wednesday, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, joins Save the Children, its president and CEO, Carolyn Miles, other humanitarian organizations and leaders in issuing the following open letter urging the protection of Syria’s children:


With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Geneva today, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Over 11,000 Syrian children have already lost their lives. From the shelling of residential areas to attacks on schools and hospitals, children are being targeted. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatized, hungry, and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.

As they arrive in Geneva, we urgently call on the parties to the conflict not to target children, and to commit to a three-point plan to protect them:

  1. Do not prevent life-saving aid from reaching children.
  2. Do not target, or allow military use of, schools or health facilities.
  3. Do not use explosive weapons in populated areas.

Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.


Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Laureate

Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

Antonio Gutteres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization

Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme

Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council

Louise Arbour, President and CEO, International Crisis Group

David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO, World Vision International