Syrian Civil Society Calls for Credible Syrian-Led Political Process for Syria

169 Syrian Civil Society Organisations Urge for Political Transition to Remain focus of Geneva Talks

[4 August 2017] In August 02 letter to UN Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura, 169 Syrian civil society organisations and activists highlight the failure of the Geneva process to deliver tangible progress and relief for Syrians, urging the UN to ensure a credible negotiated end to the conflict remains an utmost and urgent priority. 

Recent rounds of UN-led Geneva talks have been seriously undermined by a focus on process over substance, the damaging influence of international actors, and a lack of political will to advance the process – yet the suffering in Syria continues. 

“Sadly, the Geneva process has delivered neither peace nor protection to the Syrian people who are increasingly disillusioned with a process that continues to fail them. We are keen to reverse this trend as without the support of Syrian civil society no political deal will be either sustainable or legitimate, and right now the current process is losing our support. Syrian civil society’s priority is to achieve an inclusive transition to a free and democratic Syria,” the signatories state.

The 169 Syrian civil society organisations and activists call on UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to:

  • Ensure that the Geneva process serves the interests of Syrians, first and foremost, and is not driven entirely by international actors. This requires a re-focus of the Geneva talks onto transition, as per UNSCR 2254.
  • Draw from the legitimacy and unique contribution of Syrian civil society to ensure a sustainable political agreement for Syria. This includes using civil society’s expertise on the four baskets to unlock progress in the talks and move to concrete discussions towards transition. Only Syrian civil society can create the broad buy-in from the ground for any political agreement. 
  • Demand the enforcement of UNSCRs that call for the protection of civilians to make the Geneva process viable. To do so, we urge you to press the parties to the conflict and especially the backers of the Syrian regime to enforce a sustainable nationwide ceasefire with a UN-led monitoring mechanism and credible enforcement.  
  • Ensure that concrete progress on humanitarian access, the detainee file and forced displacement is at the heart of the Geneva negotiations. In particular, we call on you to fulfil your mandate and ensure progress on the detainee file including by securing (i) a comprehensive plan for the release of detainees beyond small-scale prisoner exchanges; (ii) information about the fates of all Syrians forcibly disappeared; (iii) access by international monitors to all detention facilities; and (iv) a halt to execution orders, particularly in regime security and military facilities, as well as in those run by armed groups.

Below you can find the full letter and the list of signatories:


Mr. Staffan de Mistura

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria

CC: 

UN Secretary General

Members of the UN Security Council

Envoys of the International Syria Support Group

EU Ambassadors to the Political and Security Committee

2 August

Your Excellency,

Following the seventh round of peace negotiations, we write to you on behalf of the undersigned Syrian civil society organisations who work every day under unbearable circumstances to improve the living conditions of millions of Syrians.  We represent the voices from the ground and our work across the country in the fields of medical and humanitarian assistance, education, freedom of expression, youth and women empowerment, and accountability and justice proves again the fundamental role Syrian civil society plays as a champion for a democratic and inclusive Syria.

As a vital resource for the Syrian population trapped between a tyrannical regime and the brutality of extremism, Syrian civil society organisations strongly support any efforts to bring an end to the Syria conflict. This is why many of our representatives have participated in the intra-Syrian peace talks within the framework of the Civil Society Support Room and have been active in supporting the Geneva peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime.

Sadly, the Geneva process has delivered neither peace nor protection to the Syrian people who are increasingly disillusioned with a process that continues to fail them.  We are keen to reverse this trend as without the support of Syrian civil society no political deal will be either sustainable or legitimate, and right now the current process is losing our support.  Syrian civil society’s priority is to achieve an inclusive transition to a free and democratic Syria.  We are all united around this outcome which defines the basis of the Geneva peace process as set out by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and as reiterated in your mandate as UN Special Envoy for Syria.

We expect all parties in Geneva – including you – to work for this purpose and engage in serious negotiations.  The time consumed on discussions around process and representation, at the expense of a credible and realistic political deal for transition toward democracy, is not only wasting precious time but it is also undermining the international community’s efforts to fight terrorism in Syria.  Syrian civil society activities are essential in the fight against extremism.  Moderate voices – as we represent – have the power to push back against the extremist forces and fill the vacuum on the ground.  But to be able to do so, we need the international community to protect our ability to assist and serve our people.  This is why we need the Geneva process to prioritise the protection of civilians and deliver meaningful negotiations that lead to peace for Syria.

From the onset of the Geneva talks we have pressed for an active role in shaping the process given our links to the ground.  As a result we continue to welcome efforts by the Syrian opposition to broaden its membership as long as it shares our purpose of achieving a political transition that is in compliance with international humanitarian law.  But many members of civil society are troubled by Russia’s attempts to dictate who sits around the negotiation table. For the Geneva process to be truly inclusive and Syrian-led it must serve the Syrian people’s aspirations first and foremost for a transition towards a democratic and free Syria. Allowing the priorities and direction of the process to be shaped by international actors has only weakened the process and diverted it from its central function.

As Syrian civil society representatives, we therefore call on you to:

  1. Re-focus the discussions of the Geneva talks as per UNSCR 2254. The international community, including the Permanent five members of the Security Council, have confirmed the principal aim of the Geneva process is transition. To achieve this aim we call on you to use your authority to effectively hold to account any party at the negotiations that continues to stall and undermine the Geneva process.
  2. Draw from the legitimacy and unique contribution of Syrian civil society to ensure a sustainable political agreement for Syria.  This includes using civil society’s expertise on the four baskets to unlock progress in the talks and move to concrete discussions towards transition.  Only Syrian civil society can create the broad buy-in from the ground for any political agreement.  
  3. Demand the enforcement of UNSCRs that call for the protection of civilians to make the Geneva process viable.  To do so, we urge you to press the parties to the conflict and especially the backers of the Assad regime to enforce a sustainable nationwide ceasefire with an UN-led monitoring mechanism and credible enforcement. This is clearly illustrated by the regime’s ongoing violations of previous commitments, including from Astana. Civil society organisations active on the ground are ready to cooperate with a credible and impartial monitoring system but we need you, the UN, to assert your role and ensure the impartiality of the ceasefire monitoring.
  4. Ensure that concrete progress on humanitarian access,  the detainee file and forced displacement is at the heart of the Geneva negotiations.  In particular, we call on you to fulfil your mandate and ensure progress on the detainee file including by securing (i) a comprehensive plan for the release of detainees beyond small-scale prisoner exchanges; (ii) information about the fates of all Syrians forcibly disappeared; (iii) access by international monitors to all detention facilities; and (iv) a halt to execution orders, particularly in regime security and military facilities, as well as in those run by armed groups.

As UN Special Envoy for Syria you can rescue the current failing Geneva process and compel serious negotiations that serve the needs and demands of the Syrian people.  The undersigned Syrian civil society organisations stand ready to assist you in this effort, but we need you and the international community to implement a credible process that will enable us to build a democratic, free and just Syria for all Syrians.

Signed,

  1. Syrian American Medical Society
  2. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
  3. Shaml CSOs Coalition
  4. Kesh Malek Organisation
  5. Women Now for Development
  6. The Syrian Network for Human Rights
  7. Violations Documentation Center
  8. Baytna Syria
  9. The Day After
  10. Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations
  11. Syrian Legal Development Programme
  12. Syrian Nonviolence Movement
  13. Watanili
  14. Jasmine Dream
  15. Start Point
  16. Sawa Foundation
  17. Sawa for Development and Aid
  18. Basamat for Development
  19. The Working Group for Syria
  20. The Working Group for Syrian Detainees
  21. Rethink Rebuild Society
  22. Albab Coordination
  23. Local Development & Small Project Support
  24. Foundation of Syrian Civil Society Organisations
  25. Syrian American Council
  26. Zaytoon
  27. Zaad
  28. Mohamed Khalili
  29. Free Syrian Lawyers Association
  30. Badael Foundation
  31. Sonbola Group for Education and Development
  32. Najda Now International
  33. Noha Alkamcha
  34. Alaa Basatneh
  35. Sana Mustafa
  36. Peace and Justice for Syria
  37. Syrian Association of Yorkshire
  38. Syria Solidarity UK
  39. Scotland4Syria
  40. Doctors Under Fire
  41. Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
  42. Ministry of Local Administration
  43. Council of Free Quneitra District
  44. Council of Free Daraa District
  45. Union of Free Economists in Daraa
  46. Directorate General of Civil Status in Daraa and Quneitra
  47. The Free Directorate of Real Estate in Daraa
  48. The Free Directorate of Transportation in Daraa
  49. Directorate of Family Affairs in the Southern Province
  50. The Free Directorate General of Irrigation in Daraa and Quneitra
  51. Union of Free Engineers in Quneitra
  52. The Free Lawyers Union in Daraa
  53. Syrian Women Association for Development in Quneitra
  54. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in
  55. Union of Agricultural Engineers in Quneitra
  56. The Free Lawyers Union in Quneitra
  57. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Sweisah
  58. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Heiran
  59. Directorate of Enkhel
  60. The Revolutionary Council in Enkhel
  61. The Enkhel Judiciary
  62. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Nawa
  63. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Tafas
  64. Association of Enkhel Ajyal Schools
  65. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Hirak
  66. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in al-Jiza
  67. Local Council of Enkhel City
  68. The Public Institute for Grains – Free Daraa Branch
  69. Syrian Women Dawn Association – Hawa’
  70. Voice of Women Association
  71. Syrian Women Peace Association
  72. Office of Documentation and Reparations (Destroyed Houses)
  73. Free Doctors Union in Daraa
  74. Ghadir Al-Bustan Council
  75. Al-Rafid Council
  76. Al- Bouweidah Council
  77. Nab’ Al-Sakhr Council
  78. Al-Qasibah Council
  79. Swisah Council
  80. Kudnah Council
  81. Beer Ajam Council
  82. Jabbatha Al-Khashab Council
  83. Council of Displaced Persons of Quneitra from Damascus
  84. West Daraa Council
  85. Al-Kahtanya Council
  86. Um Batneh Council
  87. Masehara Council
  88. Juba Council
  89. Al-Coum Council
  90. Khan Arnabeh Council
  91. Haoud Al-Yarmouk Council
  92. Moukhayam Daraa Council
  93. Kanaker Council
  94. Council of Sa’sa’ in Damascus Countryside
  95. Al-Mal Council
  96. Deir El-Adas Local Council
  97. Kafr Shams Local Council
  98. Local Council of the Occupied City of Sheikh Maskin
  99. Local Council of the Displaced from Haoud Al-Yarmouk
  100. Saida Local Council
  101. Deir Maker Council
  102. Dourin Council
  103. Ghassem Local Council
  104. Msikah Local Council
  105. Mahja Local Council
  106. Da’el Local Council
  107. Nassib Local Council
  108. Akraba Local Council
  109. Karak Al-Sharqi Local Council
  110. Al-Boeer Local Council
  111. Nimer Local Council
  112. Ayb Local Council
  113. Council of the Lajah and Houran tribes
  114. Tafas Local Council
  115. Al Faqi’ Local Council
  116. Nawa Local Council
  117. Local Council of Sharae’ Village
  118. Jabal El-Arab Tribal Council
  119. City of Azra’ Local Council
  120. Town of Heit Local Council
  121. Elemtaih Village Local Council
  122. Al-Sahwah Local Council
  123. Al-Na’imah Local Council
  124. Deir Al-Bakht Local Council
  125. Almah Town Local Council
  126. Al-Jiza Local Council
  127. Umm Al-Ausaj Village Local Council
  128. Jebab Local Council
  129. Al Sheikh Saad Local Council
  130. Ibte’ Local Council
  131. Kfar Nasig Village Local Council
  132. Al-Ghariyya Al-Sharqiya Local Council
  133. Zamrain Village Local Council
  134. Melihah Al-Atash Village Local Council
  135. Enkhel Local Council
  136. ‘Odwan Local Council
  137. Al-Bakar Local Council
  138. Syria Relief Network
  139. Civil Defense in Nawa City
  140. Security Office in Nawa
  141. Kahil Local Council
  142. Local Council of the Northern Lajah Sector 
  143. Jassem Local Council
  144. Namer Local Council
  145. Al-Malyha Al-Gharbiah Local Council
  146. Al-Aalya Local Council
  147. Al-Taybah Local Council
  148. Naheta Local Council
  149. Busra Al-Harir Local Council
  150. Revolution Command Council in Enkhel City
  151. The Free Directorate of Religious Affairs in Daraa 
  152. Directorate of Family Affairs in Daraa
  153. Union of Veterinarians
  154. Syrian Center For Arbitration & Conflict Resolution in Nawa City 
  155. Al-Omariah Commission for Transitional Justice
  156. El-Shaheed Khalaf El Kharsan Hospital
  157. The Free Syrian Teachers Union
  158. The Syrian Commission for Media
  159. Al-Jebayya Center for Studies in Nawa
  160. Agricultural Engineers Union in Daraa
  161. The Free Engineers Union in Daraa
  162. The Free Directorate of Health in Daraa
  163. The Free Directorate of Education In Daraa
  164. The Free Directorate of Statistics in Daraa
  165. Nawa Media Institute
  166. Bidhrat Nama’ Institute
  167. Center for Legal Consultation in Daraa
  168. Revolution Command Council in Daraa
  169. Abna’ Al-Shuhadaa School in Nawa 
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