Syrian civil society and women sidelined in peace talks
Peace talks begin
After months of postponements, the long-awaited Geneva II Conference to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria began in January in Montreux, Switzerland. It took a monumental diplomatic effort to make the conference happen. The Montreux conference could mark the first step on a long, rocky road to the resolution of this devastating crisis.
Syrian women and civil society sidelined
Oxfam is concerned that Syrian civil society organisations and women have, so far, been sidelined. Many representatives of Syrian civil society including women made the long journey to Montreux – but were denied a place around the table. That must change as the talks progress if they are to deliver a sustainable political solution. The voice of the peaceful, yet marginalized majority, must be heard. Other than the warring parties, the critical mass of peaceful Syrian voices will be missing from these talks; as it often happens it is only “the men with guns” who will be represented.
“If these were serious peace talks then civil society organisations would have been at the table, everyone knows that without women and civil society peace is simply not sustainable.” – Rim Turkmani, from Madani – a Syrian civil society organisation.
Oxfam has been working alongside Syrian women’s groups to push for a place for civil society at the negotiating table.
Syrian women’s groups and wider civil society organisations have been working for peace all along. Through their efforts to provide aid and promote reconciliation, they have become experts on the realities on the ground, the needs and aspirations of ordinary women and men across the country.
Syrian women have made practical proposals for what civil society participation could look like. They have chosen delegations, they have worked hard to overcome their differences and unite around their commonalities – the respect they have for human life, and their insatiable desire for a free, democratic Syria where the equal rights of all are respected. Coming together from across the political spectrum, they have demonstrated that they can embrace diversity and are setting an example of maturity, unity and perseverance to the international community and the warring parties in Syria. Yet still they are not in the room – and we have so far heard no argument why not.
The Geneva II Peace talks represent a glimmer of hope for Syria to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict. All Syrians need to be able to shape and express their vision for a future Syria. Oxfam knows from experience around the world that unless women and a broad range of civil society groups including business leaders, faith groups and youth are included in the process, no peace agreement is likely to last.
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