More than 70 aid groups working in Syria said Thursday that they had suspended information-sharing cooperation with the United Nations over concerns that the Syrian government had interfered with UN relief efforts to advance its political goals.
In an open letter, officially received by a UN office in Turkey, 73 humanitarian organizations said that UN agencies working in Syria had failed to provide aid to all Syrians in need because of government influence on aid operations.
"It has become clear to many organizations that the Syrian government in Damascus has a significant and substantial influence on the performance of UN agencies based in Damascus," the letter said.
"We must express our concern over the manipulation of humanitarian relief efforts by the political interests of the Syrian government that deprives other Syrians in besieged areas from services of those programs."
Besides suspending participation in the information-sharing mechanism, the aid organizations also called on the UN to launch "a transparent and visible investigation" into Syrian aid operations and appoint a monitoring body to provide oversight.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the UN was studying the letter and its implications. He stressed that the organization was committed to impartiality in delivering aid, but noted it was working in a "very specific environment."
"We work in a context in Damascus where the Syrian government, as some other governments, insists that UN agencies work with a list of authorized UN partners - we choose from those lists based on our own assessement of their capacity to deliver and follow due diligence processes," Dujarric said.
He added that the UN's focus remained getting humanitarian aid to everyone in need and the UN would continue to engage with all humanitarian actors in Syria.