Our for­eign pol­icy needs to change

Rutherglen Reformer - - Margaret Ferrier -

Last Fri­day marked World Hu­man­i­tar­ian Day – an an­nual re­minder of the need to act to al­le­vi­ate suf­fer­ing.

Last week, peo­ple across the world were shocked at a sin­gle pho­to­graph of a five-year-old boy sit­ting dazed in the back of an am­bu­lance, fol­low­ing an airstrike in Aleppo.

Om­ran Daqneesh quickly be­came a sym­bol of the suf­fer­ing that many thou­sands of chil­dren are en­dur­ing in war-torn Syria.

Es­ti­mates from the Syr­ian Cen­tre for Pol­icy Re­search put the to­tal death toll from five years of war in the coun­try at around half a mil­lion, with the United Na­tions es­ti­mat­ing that tens of thou­sands of chil­dren are among the war dead.

Sadly, we learned just days ago that Om­ran’s 10-year-old brother Ali passed away due to his in­juries from the bomb­ing of his house, and be­came yet an­other child bru­tally slaugh­tered in the on­go­ing con­flict.

The sur­vivors in Syria are not get­ting the aid that they need. The UN was only able to meet 40 per­cent of its aid de­liv­ery tar­gets for June and July.

We see sim­i­lar is­sues with aid de­liv­ery in Ye­men. There, the airstrikes that have tar­geted docks and main in­fra­struc­ture have led to 80 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

The UK pro­fesses to wield great in­flu­ence in the world. It is time to prove it.

I will never for­get the sound of Labour and Tory MPs cheer­ing at the prospect of air strikes in Syria dur­ing the cru­cial Com­mons de­bate late last year.

When I held a de­bate in West­min­ster Hall a few months ago and called for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in Ye­men, those cheer­ing voices were no­tably ab­sent.

The UK is in­vest­ing bil­lions in in­ter­na­tional aid, but the big­gest prob­lem is reach­ing the peo­ple who are most in need.

It is time to use our in­flu­ence to bro­ker hu­man­i­tar­ian pauses in these con­flicts – and to en­sure they are ad­hered to.

In the case of Ye­men, we must im­me­di­ately stop arm­ing Saudi Ara­bia, and back a proper in­de­pen­dent in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into breaches of hu­man­i­tar­ian law by all par­ties in­volved in the con­flict.

Our for­eign pol­icy needs to change if we truly wish to make a hu­man­i­tar­ian dif­fer­ence.

Closer to home, I am in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed that the UK Gov­ern­ment has sig­nalled its in­tent to pro­ceed with plans to scrap the Hu­man Rights Act.

This vi­tal piece of leg­is­la­tion needs to be up­held.

These are our fun­da­men­tal rights and it is un­be­liev­able that af­ter many months of mixedmes­sages, the UK gov­ern­ment still can­not tell us what its plans are or whether it in­tends to force Scot­land out of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights against our will.

Hu­man rights are a de­volved mat­ter in Scot­land. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and Par­lia­ment must be con­sulted on any pro­pos­als to scrap the Hu­man Rights Act or to take Scot­land out of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion.

The sur­vivors in Syria are not get­ting the aid they need


War A Syr­ian boy who has been wounded af­ter shelling in the coun­try

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