TEHRAN -- United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos says stopping the funding and financing of terrorist groups, including ISIL, which is operating in Iraq and Syria, is “absolutely critical” to curtail their activities.
Baroness Amos made the remarks in an interview with the Tehran Times on Sunday in the Iranian capital Tehran.
Amos, a British citizen who took office on September 1, 2010, was in Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials to improve regional cooperation on humanitarian assistance and discuss major humanitarian crises affecting the Middle East.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Tehran Times: Is the UN engaged in preventive diplomacy to stop terrorist groups like ISIL?
Valerie Amos: The UN is using preventive diplomacy all the time, that’s why the UN was created because the world recognized that we needed to have some kind of multilateral body to work with different member states to try to prevent wars and conflicts from escalating. But I think that when you’re talking about the spread of a terrorist organization like ISIL, these are groups that don’t follow the rules of international diplomacy. So, what the UN can do -- and you’d have seen that the member states of the Security Council passed the resolution condemning the financing, for example, of ISIL -- what the UN member states can do is to use the Security Council, use the tools of the United Nations to try to prevent the funding and spread of these kinds of organizations. The UN can also, of course, where you have armed and terrorist groups on the ground, can try to find ways of engaging in some kind of discussion. Obviously, how we do that is not something that we discuss, but it’s a part of a process of trying to use the good offices of the United Nations to mediate. So I think there are different ways in which the UN plays a role in terms of preventive diplomacy.
Q: What has been the impact of ISIL’s activities on neighboring countries?
A: Obviously, in Syria and Iraq, which is where we have seen the main impact, it’s been horrific in terms of the impact it had on the ordinary people, the brutality and violence. I think, well, we are extremely concerned about the impact on women, for example.
In terms of neighboring countries, I think there is a worry in many neighboring countries that this could spread, and this could spread into those countries and destabilize those countries. So there are debates and discussions going on between the presidents and prime ministers, the foreign ministers of those countries with respect to what can be done to halt the advance of ISIL, and indeed to ensure that in the longer-term this kind of terrorism is rooted out over time. You will know that the Security Council has passed resolutions which have resulted in the sanctioning of certain individuals engaged in terrorist activities across the world. This, of course, itself is not enough. Stopping the funding and financing of those terrorist networks is also absolutely critical. And I think this is what neighboring countries are worried about.
Q: Ms. Amos, let’s turn to Gaza. Have you been to the Gaza Strip since Israel’s assault on the besieged territory?
A: No, I haven’t. The [UN] secretary general went to the region. He didn’t go into Gaza, but he went to the region and was engaged actively in diplomacy across the region. My colleague who is in charge of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency went to Gaza a number of times. And, of course, I have an office in Gaza.
Q: Is humanitarian aid getting into Gaza?
A: All the humanitarian organizations and our partners have been working very closely on this, including the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), and, of course, a part of what we've been working on is to get as many medical supplies in as possible. The Palestinian authorities have said to us that medical supplies are coming through. They have had medical supplies that have been sent by a number of different countries… We want to try to ensure that more of those medical supplies get in because, as you say, there are high numbers of people who have been injured. We also need to get more food supplies in. I think I said in my press conference that even before this recent conflict, 67 percent of Gazans were dependent on food aid. So we need to be able to get more food into Gaza as well, which is something that our teams are working on. We have to negotiate with the Egyptians. We also have to negotiate with the Israelis on that.
Q: What work are you doing in Gaza as the UN humanitarian chief?
A: What is here for me to do and the secretary general and others is to really raise attention to the reality of what is really happening on the ground: the impact this is having on ordinary people, the destruction of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the fact that people now have only a few hours of electricity per day, if they are very lucky, the destruction of the water system, what this means, the fact that we had at a height about 280,000 people that were sheltering in UNRWA facilities -- that figure is now at about 240,000 in about 181 UNRWA facilities in Gaza -- the major impact this had on women and children, the fact that six UN facilities have been hit seven times [since July 8th]… I want to focus on what is happening to people right now and what we can do about it.