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March 2016 marks five years of upheaval and conflict in Syria – conflict that has reduced lives to shadows and cities to rubble. The Syrian government and its allies, as well as armed opposition and extremist groups, bear the primary and direct responsibility for the horrific reality that Syria’s civilians face on this grim anniversary. They have targeted civilians, laid siege to cities and towns and denied access to life-saving assistance.

This paper examines what the UN Security Council demands happen in Syria; the situation since March 2015, and significant actions by the Permanent Members of the UNSC. In the first months of 2016 and at time of drafting this paper, some progress has been made in securing greater humanitarian access to those in besieged areas and a cessation of hostilities in parts of the country which has resulted in a significant decrease in civilian casualties. These are important steps that should be recognised and built on, but they remain fragile and limited in the context of the overall deterioration experienced by civilians inside Syria over the last horrendous year of violence.

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