The access working group in north-west Syria has played a crucial role in supporting humanitarian actors navigate a highly politicised environment shaped by sanctions, a significant remote management aspect, and a cyclical uncertainty of the UN Security Council Resolution that provided a basis for cross-border aid delivery.
This report is one of three case studies exploring how access working groups support engagement with non-state armed groups and de-facto authorities and the factors that both enable and constrain that engagement. The findings are based on interviews with humanitarian access specialists, senior humanitarian officials, and donors.
The north-west Syria report finds:
- The demands of the access environment indicated there has simply not been enough staffing or time to make progress on the access working group’s ambitions.
- Participants’ assessments of the access working group’s ability to support engagement with armed groups and de-facto authorities was often tightly bound to the support the UN’s access team was providing partners, rather than collective work the HAWG had supported or led on. Many viewed the UN support as positive, but organisations outside the HAWG seemed to find it difficult to see what concrete outputs the group was responsible for.
- Beyond the need for an access coordination mechanism to be sustained in the long term for the north-west, participants highlighted the need for a more sustained, structured and proactive dialogue with NSAGs and DFAs; and for donors either to provide greater clarity about what level of engagement, coordination or cooperation with such groups was acceptable, or to demonstrate greater flexibility in this regard in line with humanitarian principles.