The CENTER FOR CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY (CCSD) calls for the EU and its members states to play a greater role in supporting a political solution for Syria,
protecting civilians from war crimes and crimes against humanity and addressing the ongoing impunity that has worsened the conflict after seven years.
The EU Syria Conclusions, released by the EU Foreign Affairs Council on April 16, are important stepping stones to bring an end to the conflict. However, CCSD appeals to the EU and its member states to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities across Syria as well as to increase support to the UN-mediated peace process. In particular, CCSD calls on the EU and its members states to increase support for more participation of women and civil society in the peace process.
INCREASE HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT
The humanitarian need is more urgent than ever, with more than 13 million Syrians in need of protection and humanitarian aid. CCSD urges the EU to address the humanitarian situation of IDPs and apply more pressure to gain access to hard-to-reach and besieged areas. Forced displacements have aggravated the humanitarian needs. When and if agreements are reached there must be guarantees that people can return to their homes and that they will not be arrested or forcibly conscripted.
The international community must support local initiatives to resolve conflict and tensions between IDP and host communities. Refugees in the neighboring countries must receive legal support and more priority must be given to education and health.
STRENGTHEN ACCOUNTABILITY AND JUSTICE
2018 has marked an increase in indiscriminate attacks against unarmed civilians and forced displacements. For seven years, these war crimes and crimes against humanity have been met with impunity. The international community must continue to work to end this, adding diplomatic pressure to condemnations. At the same time, the EU must ensure that justice and accountability is an integral part of any future political agreement. Reconstruction must not move forward without being linked to accountability and justice. The voices of victims and survivors must be more linked to the political process. In particular, more attention must be given to the victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGVB). CCSD calls for a task force on SGBV to be incorporated into the IIIM and that special courts be established to try SGBV cases. The EU must provide more support for survivors of SGBV with special programs for recovery and reintegration in Syria and in neighboring countries.
SUPPORT AN INCLUSIVE PEACE PROCESS
While the Geneva process may seem stalled, public opinion polls in areas under opposition control inside Syria demonstrate lack of support for the Astana process and maintained preference for a UN-mediated negotiation on a political solution. The EU should ensure that any political negotiation is inclusive and leads to a democratic political transition. Syrian civil society leaders closest to peace and security issues at a local level are unable to participate meaningfully
in the national peace process due to restrictions on movement. More must be done to leverage the knowledge, networks, and capacities of local peace resources.
CCSD is calling for increased support for more participation of women and civil society in the peace process, not only through the Civil Society Support Room and the Women’s Advisory Board, but also through direct consultations with Track III communities via local civil society organizations. Mechanisms to engage women and civil society on local, national and international level should be an integral part of the peace process.
LINK CONSTITUTION REFORM TO THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS
The process of drafting a constitution must not be separated from the issue of governance. The two processes are closely linked to one another. Instead of drafting a permanent constitution, the Syrian situation requires two phases. First, a Constitution Drafting Committee must be established to draft a transitional constitutional charter that organizes the transitional period. The Constitutional Charter must be approved as part of the UN-mediated peace process and should include two sections:
1) constitutional principles that guarantee the human rights, inclusive of women’s rights, for individuals and groups as outlined in the International Bill of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
2) description of the Transitional Governing Body, including its powers, mechanisms for the transfer of power, and core principles of good governance.
Second, a consultative mechanism must be established as part of the drafting process to include the negotiating parties, civil society, and representatives from all segments of Syrian society. This must include a focus on ensuring women’s equal participation and strong youth representation.
CCSD is calling upon the EU, UN, and international community to ensure that any drafting Committee includes at least 50% women and to form an advisory body of gender experts to work on mainstreaming gender in the constitution draft. This will increase the likelihood that future legislative reforms will increase the protection of women and girls from SGBV.