The UN is facing backlash following the revelation that a large portion of its Syrian aid was funneled through organisations closely aligned with the Assad regime.
Tens of millions of dollars were donated to various charities and businessmen connected with Syrian President Bashar Assad, sometimes in direct conflict with US and EU sanctions, an investigation by The Guardian has revealed.
Beneficiaries of the aid include charities set up by the president’s wife, Asma al-Assad, and another by his closest associate, Rami Makhlouf, who has been described as the "poster boy of corruption" on the US diplomatic scene.
Among the contracts is a $13m sum to the government aimed at boosting agriculture, despite the EU having prohibited trade with the agriculture department.
Another contract from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows a $5m donation to the country’s blood bank, which is operated by Syria’s defence department.
The revelation has provoked fierce criticism of the UN, with critics claiming the UN mission in Syria risks being compromised.
The apparent bias towards the Syrian regime is particularly contentious given Assad’s propensity for systematic human rights abuse, including widespread torture and the incessant barrel bombing of innocent civilians.
The UN responded, saying that they operate in an “extremely challenging” area.
“Our choices in Syria are limited by a highly insecure context where finding companies and partners who operate in besieged and hard to reach areas is extremely challenging,” they said.
This is not the first time the UN faced such controversy. In June, the Syria Campaign issued a report accusing the UN of letting the Syrian regime control aid deliveries and “direct aid from Damascus almost exclusively into its territories.”