The Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSDS) held a workshop on 26th December 2013 in Gaziantep, Turkey for the Center’s field offices’ staff about Peace-Building in Syria. The workshop was part of the Center’s project, “The Effective Social Participation in the Peace Process in Syria”, which is run in collaboration with the Peaceful Change Initiative (PCI) Organization, under the supervision of trainers, Adam Derby and Flour Jest. The project focuses on encouraging effective social participation in the peace process.
Began on 21st October, the project has a number of stages that it aims to execute within its first five months. These include the following nine objectives:
1. Meeting the patrons of the peace process;
2. Running planning and skills development workshops;
3. Mapping peace resources;
4. Preparing for the mapping report;
All these stages should be complete in December.
5. Distributing 5000 copies of the the Negotiations booklet;
6. Running dialogue forums for interested groups in Gaziantep;
7. Publishing a report of recommendations;
8. Hosting debates with influential parties on the peace process;
9. Holding two conferences with the PCI Organization about international politics in London and New York.
The workshop held on 26th December was thus the second stage of the project. The objective of the workshop was to establish mutual understanding between the trainers around the topics of violence, conflict, society and the peace process. It also taught them the skills for peace-building, for dialogue management and for dealing with people affected by the conflict. The participants were particularly interested in the safety and security of civilians during the conflict as pursued by the staff of the effective social participation team organized by the CCSDS. The team aims at training leaders to better represent their communities and encouraging the rationalization of any hierarchical peace process by promoting the idea of horizontal and vertical collaboration to support the development of peace-building resources and to establish a unified manifesto for the Syrian people.
Based on the project’s objectives, as well fresh ideas brought to the workshop, the trainers were divided into groups to explore the core issues involved in the project. In order to aid these discussions, the project manager talked about the project’s mission and how it relates to the various levels of the peace-building process. The project manager helpfully identified the first level as influential international and regional powers as well as major internal organizations. The second level included academics, clerics and civilian organizations while the third level is made up of the wider Syrian people.
During the workshop, the discussions turned to how to establish feedback sessions for the three levels of the peace process. It was agreed that supplying those involved in the peace process with high quality information about the facts on the ground and the views of local leaders was essential for the success of the peace process. Without such information, the negotiations would run the danger of neglecting specific concerns or the issues that affected ordinary Syrians that could potentially cripple any settlement agreed upon.
The group agreed that one way in which this could be achieved is to hold small panel discussions that effectively served the role of focus groups. Another method would be to conduct key reviews of peace resources – especially those that connected the three levels of the peace process together.
The discussion then turned to the challenges that the project may face, for example a lack of information leading to the project being misunderstood, and the risks posed to the project’s success, such as the substantial threat posed to it by the armed conflict and the presence of extremist organizations.
The workshop was a great success and those involved have gone away with a greater understanding of the project’s direction and what needs to be done to see it succeed. The group exercise was particularly enlightening for it allowed the trainees to better understand various opinions and philosophies that exist between the groups that are now vying for control within Syria. Importantly, they go away with the skills to better facilitate and manage discussion sessions and how to submit topics and propose questions to panel discussions and in interviews.