Given the rising “feeling of despair and tiredness” among Syrian people concerning the deadly conflict, and as a response to the appeal to “stop this carnage”, CCSDS welcomes any initiative that is calling for an end to the violence in Syria. The only solution to the crisis in Syria is to bring the country to a transitional period, in which an authority that is acceptable to all leads Syria towards a democratic and pluralistic state which respects international human rights laws. CCSDS welcomes the efforts of Special Envoy De Mistura and the “Freeze Zones” Initiative. In this statement we share our concerns and recommendations for a successful initiative, based on our consultations with key Syrian actors.

The “Freeze Zones” initiative should include a multiplicity of different Syrian and international actors, and should give guarantees on the following points:  The initiative should clearly state its intention of leading to a transitional period, in which an authority that is widely acceptable leads Syria towards a democratic and pluralistic state which respects international human rights laws.  The plan should include a fast and accurate timetable for the application of the initiative in all of Syria.  Humanitarian aid access and the gradual release of all Syrian detainees are included in the process, with a defined timetable.  The initiative should have an international legal framework to make it binding to all parties.  The initiative should be supported by official statements from all influential international actors.  The initiative should have protection procedures which will guarantee the protection for all in the “Freeze Zone.”
” If Aleppo becomes a “Freeze Zone”, does that mean that instead of throwing five barrel bombs in Aleppo and five barrel bombs in Idlib per day, the Syrian government will throw ten barrel bombs on Idlib per day?” Civil Society activist from Idlib

November 25, 2014

The methodology of the work:
Through a qualitative questionnaire, CCSDS consulted with key Syrian actors about the new UN initiative for “Freeze Zones.” The respondents are from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and represent active groups and organizations from many geographic areas inside and outside Syria. These key Syrian actors include civil society leaders, local council leaders, women activists, revolutionary councils, peace resources (individuals working for peace in their local communities), military council leaders, activists, humanitarian and medical aid workers, politicians, human rights activists, journalists and students. The participants who answered the questionnaire were from different provinces such as Daraa, Damascus and its suburbs, Deir Alzor, Idlib, Raqqa, Hama, Homs, Hasakeh, Lattakia and the refugee community in Turkey. The majority of the participants were from Aleppo.

Their Concerns:
The “Freeze Zones” initiative remains ambiguous and not completely clear for Syrian people, since little information has been made available about it. While we recognize and understand that the initiative may be in its early stages of development, we urge the office of the Special Envoy to Syria to take the following concerns into account as part of the overall strategy and design, from the earliest stages:
 As the Special Envoy to Syria said, this initiative is based “a feeling of despair and of tiredness” and on an appeal to “stop this carnage”. This initiative must ensure that it will continue to work toward an inclusive and consultative peace process that will stop the violence AND move Syria to a transitional process for a democratic and pluralistic state.
 If the initiative is not part of a larger initiative that will include ” Freeze Zones” in all of Syria, implemented in a specified timetable, the initiative could lead to the military benefit of one of the parties, leading to an increase of violence in other places in Syria.
 There must be serious commitment from all influential international actors to support this initiative.
 At this moment we do not see a Syrian political authority that is acceptable to all Syrians, who can serve the interest of all Syrians in this initiative.
 There is fear in other places in Syria that the initiative concentrates on Aleppo only.
 The vast amount of weapons possessed by all parties could easily lead to a more violent conflict in the “Freeze Zones.”  The risk of failure of this initiative will entrench the “feeling of despair and of tiredness” among Syrians and will emphasize the feeling of hopelessness of a
November 25, 2014
political solution for the Syrian crisis, and will lead to Syrians losing faith in any future initiative and to a more violent conflict.

The Challenges:
 The Syrian conflicting parties have interests that make them want to continue the violence.
 The different interests from international actors to continue the violence in Syria and their connections with actors on the ground.
 Both parties do not have a unified leadership and control over the different fighting forces.
 The extremists and the conservative powers from all sides will not accept the initiative.
 The lack of trust/belief in the Syrian government wanting this initiative to succeed.
 The existence of a war economy and warlords in Syria and their interest in keeping the war going.
 Accusations and attacks against any group or individual who is working for a political solution in Syria.
 The groups which carry weapons and do not want to disarm for safety and power reasons.
 The violence emerging from revenge killings among families and tribes because their members were involved in human rights violations, killings or somehow involved in the conflict.
 The scarcity of peace resources and the need to strengthen their numbers and capacities, especially the community leaders who can help in reducing the tensions among different groups.

The recommendations:
The “Freeze Zones” Initiative should consult key Syrian actors including active military, political and civic actors. The initiative should clearly state its aim of bringing the country to a transitional period, in which an authority that is acceptable to all Syrians leads the country toward a democratic and pluralistic state which respects international human rights laws. The initiative should start in a specific geographical area such as Aleppo, but it should be a part of a broader plan that will implement “Freeze Zones” in all of Syria based on a specific, defined timetable and implemented quickly.
 There must be specific international guarantees that the initiative will be implemented properly and also that there is enough protection for civilians.
 The implementation and monitoring plan must be specified.

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 The initiative must be accompanied by a binding Security Council resolution or other international commitments that would ensure consequences for any party that breaches the agreements.
 It must have an inclusive and consultative process with Syrians in designing the plan and in implementing the plan.
 All influential international and regional actors must be included and commit to effectively support the initiative.
 Confidence building measures must be designed and implemented, such as the gradual release of detainees and kidnapped people, starting with children, women, elderly people and other vulnerable persons. There should be a defined timetable for the release of the detainees from all sides and all areas in Syria.
 There must be a plan for humanitarian aid access, not only to Aleppo but also to the besieged areas as a good will indication.
 The initiatives should be accompanied with a plan regarding humanitarian aid, medical aid, education, disarmament, community protection procedures, psycho-social support and service providing centers for victims, especially women, in the areas where the “freeze zones” start to be applied.
 There should be UN peace keeping forces in the “Freeze Zones.”
 The air strikes by the Syrian government in all of Syria must be stopped.
 The formation of Syrian committees which consist of different community leaders that are accepted and respected by all sides.
 There must be a specific procedure to monitor the implementation of the initiative in cooperation with Syrian civil society.
 There must be alternative plans in case the initiative is not successful.
The importance of consulting civil society:
Civil society actors often have a high level of legitimacy with their local communities. Civil society actors also have developed strong networks based on trust. Civil society actors could strengthen the “Freeze Zone” initiative by:
 Bringing effective solutions to the table, which in some cases they have already implemented successfully at a local level.
 Consulting Syrian people from diverse communities, including marginalized people in order to ensure that the initiative represents their desires.
 Explaining the initiative to the Syrian people and building their support for it.
 Implementing the initiative in Aleppo and throughout Syria by leveraging their diverse and trustworthy networks.  Reducing the tensions among different groups in society.

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