Date: 30-31 March 2017
On Thursday 30 and Friday 31 March 2017, No Peace Without Justice, in partnership with Un Ponte Per, is organising a series of advocacy events in Rome for Syrian civil society activists and human rights defenders. Key professionals and activists, connected to various communities inside Syria, will present and discuss their work and their visions, in meetings with members of Italian Parliament, senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other NGOs and civil society.
To date, peace talks, irrespective of who is leading them, have not produced tangible results for the Syrian people. Most citizens in Europe do not understand the conflict lines, seeing Syrians either as victims making up the ever-increasing tragic body counts and refugees, or as combatants, soldiers, terrorists. Italian institutions dedicate resources to humanitarian aid but have not yet produced a plan to go beyond emergency programs.
Against this backdrop, Syrian civil society is trying to act as a counterbalance to traditional political, military and economic circles of formal and informal Syrian powers and promote a longer-term vision for resolving the conflict in Syria, while simultaneously avoiding being dragged into the ongoing armed and geopolitical confrontations. Civil society in Syria has evolved dramatically over the course of the conflict. When the uprising began, more Syrians started organising themselves, united in a common desire to promote human rights. Syrian civil society has increasingly developed the breath of their knowledge and understanding of the needs of the country and on international standards and mechanisms for the protection of human rights and promotion of transitional justice. All this accumulated experience can, and has to, contribute to the foundations for a new democratic Syria and it has to be listened to now.
No Peace Without Justice, together with its partners, are advocating for stronger support for Syrian civil society by Italian institutions both in terms of international cooperation and in terms of Italian political engagement in international fora which tackle Syria, such as the ongoing Geneva negotiations and the EU Summit on Syria, scheduled on 5 April in Brussels. Syrian civil society should be portrayed by the Italian media as active nongovernmental forces that work to prioritise human rights issues in peace negotiations and have a vision for nonviolent conflict resolution. There is a need to build synergies and links among Italian and Syrian CSOs, based on a concrete exchange of ideas on the obstacles that need to be overcome in Syria by those acting at the grassroots level, and the kind of international solidarity they need to perform their missions.
Participants in these advocacy events included Rami Nakhla, NPWJ Syria Program Coordinator and Syrian Pro-democracy activist, Noura Al Jizawi, Director of Start Point and former Vice President of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, and Mazen Kewara, Turkey Country Director of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), leading medical and humanitarian organisations working in Syria.